Make Black History Personal: #20 1963 March with Dr. King in Detroit



On Sunday, June 23, 1963, instead of a quiet morning at home, my father packed up the entire family and took us to downtown Detroit for a civil rights march, he said. That brief explanation couldn’t have prepared me for seeing so many people that day gathering for the march. We would turn out to be 25,000 strong led by a young minister from Atlanta who I had never heard of  -

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We marched down Woodward Avenue, the main drag in Detroit that goes from the suburbs right down to the Detroit River. It was there at Cobo Hall that the march ended and Dr. King gave a speech about having a dream.

Maybe inspired by the warm response of Detroiters to his …

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Make Black History Personal: # 19 Meeting Opera Diva Leontyne Price



In 1978, the year after I integrated the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), I attended the organization’s annual conference in  Washington, D.C. It’s called “Continental Congress” and is several days of meetings along kicked off by a huge opening night gala. The concert in 1978 was performed at DAR’s Constitution Hall by the amazing opera diva – Leontyne Price.

If you don’t know who she is – Leontyne Price, who is still living and in her 80′s, rose to international success and acclaim in a profession and during times that were not favorable to an African-American. Among her many record-breaking accomplishments as an opera singer are 13 Grammys, outstanding performances in opera houses around the world and a Presidential Medal of …

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Make Black History Personal: #18 Uncle Freddie Goes to War



It’s odd in a family where we have military service that goes back to the earliest colonial wars that I can only find one African-American ancestor who was a member of any branch of the United States military. That was my uncle, Frederick “Freddie” Dickinson who was born in Cleveland, Ohio on August 16, 1921. I knew from this photo dated 1950 that Uncle Freddie served in the Army during the Korean War.

When I researched who of my Black ancestors enlisted during World Wars I and II or the Civil War – Uncle Freddie is the only person I could find. None of my grandfathers, great-grandfathers or great-uncles served (at least not that I’ve discovered) and my father was unable to serve because of a leg …

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52 Ancestors: #7 My Father, the “Possibilities” Man



It seems only fitting that my latest post for 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks be about my father, whose 94th birthday would have been this week. My father, Thomas Melvin Batchelor was born on February 16, 1920 in Hamtramck, Michigan – a small city next to Detroit.

He was two months premature and had head full of pale blonde hair that would soon turn into the flaming red hair he was known for in his youth – along with a million freckles.

According to my grandmother, the doctor who delivered my dad said, “If he makes it through the night, he’s got a chance”. Fighter that he was, Dad not only made it through that night, but went on to survive a childhood of poverty and illness during …

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Make Black History Personal: #17 Grandma’s Dream Book and the Numbers



When my sister and I were young girls, we would get to spend the weekend with our paternal grandmother who lived in Hamtramck, Michigan. Hamtramck is a small city surrounded by Detroit that grew up around the auto factories.

Funny, I remember Grandma’s house on Grand Haven Street like it was yesterday -

The big console TV sitting in the living room with the stuffed pheasant on the top that Grandpa had shot
The polished dining room table where we sat for Sunday dinner
Grandpa’s gun rack sitting in the hallway (complete with his collection of shotguns and rifles)
Always something that smelled great cooking in the kitchen and
Grandma’s little red dream book on the side board.

I always wondered what a “dream book” was. Grandma explained it was how she …

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