Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bessie Coleman First African and Native American Female Pilot


by Janet Crain

Bessie Coleman was the world's first black female pilot and the first woman to receive an international pilot's license. She flew in the United States 3 years before Amelia Earhart. But this triumph over circumstance came after many hard years of work and sacrifice.

Bessie was born in Atlanta, Texas to George and Susan Coleman, the twelfth of thirteen children or the 6th of 10 according to which resource you read. In any case, life was very hard in the little home four miles from Waxahachie, Texas that George built with his own hands, then left for Oklahoma to establish his Native American citizenship as a Choctaw-Cherokee with a small amount of African American ancestry. Susan declined to move the family with him. She eked out a living picking cotton and the children helped. In some manner Bessie was sent to one semester of College in Oklahoma, but had to return home when her money ran out.

She then became a self employed laundress, walking the four miles to Waxahachie in the morning to get the dirty laundry and washing all day when this meant carrying water and wood to burn for fuel. After four years of this, she vowed to improve her condition and moved to Chicago where her older brothers lived. She attended a manicurist school for about one month and was then installed in the window of the White Sox Barbershop where her good looks attracted the maximum attention and clientele.

One of her brothers who returned from France after the war told her the women in her neighborhood would never be able to fly planes like the women in France. That was all Bessie needed to hear. Flying had been a lifelong dream of hers. She began a campaign among her well heeled gentlemen friends, both black and white, to contribute to her receiving flying lessons in France. Apparently Bessie was
persuasive indeed, as she was soon studying French and preparing for her trip.

She took lessons at the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and in 1921 she became the only black pilot in the world. A year later she became the first black woman to fly over American soil.

Bessie soon became a role model, not only for blacks and women, but for others who admired her tenacity and endurance. She barnstormed, performed sky stunts and flew crop dusters to earn money to establish her own flying school. Never adverse to publicity, Bessie designed a military costume and shaved 4 or 5 years off her real age.

At one performance in Houston she took up, free of charge, 75 different people in her plane, saying they may not be able to ride the train but they had flown in an airplane.

To fulfill her dream to own her own plane and start a school for African American students, she made a deal with a businessman to pay for a $400. Jenny, a plane that she would use to advertise his business to repay him.

When the mechanic flew the plane to her, they took it up for a check and for once she did not fasten her seat belt because sitting in the passenger seat she was too short to see out The engine stalled and the plane lurched, throwing her out. Her death was instantaneous and so was the mechanic's as the plane crashed and landed on top of him. An investigation revealed a wrench left carelessly behind which became lodged in the controls.

And so a dream died for Brave Bessie. But not for her adoring public. 5,000 people attended her funeral and for many years afterward black pilots dropped flowers on her Chicago grave on her birthday.

Only after her death did Bessie receive the recognition she desired. Her dream of a flying school for African Americans was fulfilled when William J. Powell established the Bessie Coleman Aero club in Los Angeles. Influenced by the Aero Club, hundreds of black aviators -- including the Flying Blackbirds, the Flying Hobos, and the Tuskegee Airmen -- continued to make Bessie's dream a reality.


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Thursday, February 11, 2010

First ancient human sequenced

For the first time researchers have sequenced an ancient human genome, revealing characteristics of Greenland's first inhabitants and providing evidence of a previously unknown human migration, according to a study published in this week's Nature.
Past studies have sequenced partial genomes or mitochondrial DNA, which only codes for the mother's side of the genome, said David Lambert, an evolutionary biologist from Griffith University who was not involved in the study. "But this is really the first complete ancient human genome."
"This research brings new excitement to the field because it shows us that we can potentially reconstruct not only where people came from, but also what they looked like," said Lambert, who wrote an accompanying commentary to the study in Nature. This level of reconstruction is possible, he explained, because the Human Genome Project has provided extensive databases with which to compare this ancient individual's genome. cont here
cover article here

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Popular BBC genealogy show set to jump the big pond in April

"WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE-BBC?", is a British TV show that has been running since 2004. It is a genealogical documentary series that unveils the family history of different well know individuals living today.

Personal History has been a passion for millions of individuals and families world wide. There are companies that have been developed to supply these genealogists with the records they need to trace their ancestry and create their own personal family histories. FOOTNOTE.COM is one of these organizations. They have teamed up with the National Archives and a number of other archival institutions to help people connect to their past. Some of the celebrities featured in this BBC TV show have been Jeremy Irons, Davina McCall, and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. The show runs for an hour with no commercial breaks. There is a great Facebook site that one can refer to, "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE - LIVE". Become a fan!

NBC has announced a new reality TV series premiering in April of 2010. The US's version of "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE" will take a celebrity, trace his/her family history, and present the results of their genealogical research to the public. If the show follows the same pattern as her BBC sister, it will be a weekly production. Even though this new series will be in an hour time slot, with commercials, it will run about 42 minutes.

The executive producer of the show is none other than Lisa Kudrow. She will share the spotlight with Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Surandon. They will be the first celebrities exploring their family histories on the this new live TV show. It doesn't look like NBC is holding anything back from this family history expose'. Fed by genealogical research, celebrities will be taken on a journey through their families history. Stories of courage and heroism will likely be found, along with some disappointing discoveries as well. What impact did their families have on this country? What kind of personalities existed that match their own? All of these facts will rise to the surface as we take our journey through the lives of these famous people. Reality shows have taken over the air waves, but I believe this new series is the first to link the present with the past.


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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tracing an Indentured Servant Ancestor

Indentured servants can be found among the forebears of most people with southern colonial ancestry.[1] Identifying an ancestor as indentured, however, is a challenge. These men and women created few records while bound and, once they became free, records might not mention their previous status. More daunting is tracing known indentured servants back to their arrival in America and from there to a European port of departure and place of birth. Some original records generated specifically about these servants have been lost, but many sources survive in the United States and Europe that can help researchers identify these ancestors and understand their lives.


The term indentured servant arose in the context of a system for financing immigration to North America primarily during the colonial period. Europeans who could not afford passage to America sold themselves to merchants and seamen in exchange for transportation to the colonies.[2] This arrangement was spelled out in a contract—called an indenture—in which the emigrant agreed to work without compensation for a fixed term, typically four or five years.

Servants often entered into such contracts freely but sometimes merchants and ship captains, in a practice called “spiriting,” kidnapped impoverished children and youths, forcing them into an indenture.[3] Shiploads of these volunteers and victims disembarked in colonial port towns and along river banks, where ship masters sold them to plantation owners and others who needed workers. These strangers became the servants’ masters and literally owned them for the duration of their contracts.[4]


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Monday, February 1, 2010

Gates first African American to have complete genome sequenced

Interestingly, Gates carries both a European Y chromosome and mtDNA. He has been described as half European by earlier test givers.

"When we did my father's admixture test, my father is 67 percent white," Gates said. "I'm 50 percent. What does that mean? Does that make me less black? I had to ask all those questions. I'm very secure in my African-American identity. It just means that African Americans and European Americans have been inextricably intertwined on the most intimate level from day one in this country."

And something else even more interesting came out in the DNA testing.

"It's standard for those of us who have white ancestry to have inherited that white ancestry from the male line," Gates said. "My Y chromosome goes back to Europe and my mitochondrial DNA goes back to Europe...;id=461


Knome Featured in New PBS Series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Marks the first time that the genome of an African American has been sequenced and analyzed

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Knome, a leading pioneer in the personal genomics field, will be featured in the new four-part PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The series follows Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he uses advanced genetics tools to explore the ancestral histories of 12 renowned Americans, uncovering unique stories of immigration that illuminate the American experience.

Working with geneticists at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Knome analyzed and interpreted the whole genomes of Professor Gates and his father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr. Through this process, Gates and his father became the first father and son, as well as the first African Americans, to learn about their genomes in such remarkable detail. What's more, Henry Louis Gates, Sr. is now the oldest human being to have had his whole genome sequenced and analyzed.

On the program, Knome scientists illuminate the striking 'mosaic' of ancestry in Professor Gates' and his father's genomes, tracing their ancestry to Africa, Europe and beyond. By comparing the two genomes to each other, they revealed the shared genetic heritage of a father and son, including aspects of their health risks and strengths. Further, by documenting the parts of their genomes that the two men did not share, Knome's analysis offered a glimpse of the genome of Professor Gates' late mother.

"This was, in many ways, a life changing experience for me," said Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. "Having my fully sequenced genome analyzed by Knome revealed incredible insights about my own past that I wasn't expecting. Now, as I follow the future of genetic research, I will be able to see how the latest scientific discoveries are related to me."

Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG in association with Ark Media. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., William R. Grant, Peter Kunhardt, and Dyllan McGee are executive producers. Barak Goodman and Sue Williams are senior producers. The series premieres Feb. 10, 17, 24 and March 3 at 8 p.m. on PBS.

Professor Gates' profiled guests are to include professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

About Knome, Inc.

Based in Cambridge, MA, Knome is a leading personal genomics company focused on providing secure, state-of-the-art sequencing, data management, and analysis solutions to researchers and individuals. Knome was the first company to offer whole genome and whole exome sequencing and analysis services. Led by internationally-recognized geneticists, clinicians and bioinformaticians, Knome has been responsible for sequencing and interpreting more human genomes than any other company in the world. For more information, please visit

SOURCE Knome, Inc.

Press Release

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