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Difference Makers

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William Alexander Leidesdorff

William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr., was born October 23, 1810 in the Virgin Islands. His mother, Anna Marie Sparks, was reportedly of African and Spanish decent. His father, Wilhelm Leidesdorff, Sr., a sugar planter, was reportedly of Danish and Jewish decent. Young William arrived in California in 1841 and is credited as one of the founders of the city of San Francisco. He used proceeds acquired as a highly successful businessman to purchase large swaths of land. William played a key role organizing the first public school, launched the first steamboat and opened the first hotel in the area. He died on May 18, 1848 at the age of 38 from “brain fever” in San Francisco.

William Washington Browne

He was born a slave in Georgia in 1849 and later sold to a plantation owner in Tennessee. Young William would stop at nothing to be free. At age 15 he ran away with the Union Army to become an officer’s servant and later joined the ranks of the Union Army. He retuned to the south to become a school teacher and was ordained as a Methodist minister. He later founded the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers. The organization’s holdings included an insurance company, hotel, office building,, concert hall and the True Reformers Savings Bank. At the time the bank opened in 1889, it became the first African American Bank in the United States to receive a charter.

Nydia Velázquez

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez is well acquainted with making history. She became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. Later in 1998, she became the first Hispanic woman to serve as a ranking member of a full house committee when she was selected to sit on the Small Business Committee. In 2006 she was tapped to serve as chair of that committee, making her the first Latina to serve in that role. Congresswoman Velázquez serves New York’s 7th District, which includes Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and Queens.

Carole Simpson

December 7, 1941 is not only etched in history for the attack on Pear Harbor, it’s also the birthday of news broadcast journalist, author Carole Simpson, the first African-American woman to anchor a national news broadcast. Carole began her career in Chicago on WCFL radio before moving to local television station WBBM and onto ABC news in 1975. In 1992 She made history when she became the first woman of color to moderate a presidential debate. Carole retired from ABC in 2006 and taught journalism until 2019 at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Johnny Hartman

Born John Maurice Hartman on July 3, 1923 in Houma Louisiana. John Hartman held critical acclaim as a performer and recording artist. His velvet smooth voice was unmistakable, making him the only vocalist to record with renowned saxophonist John Coltrane as band leader. The collaboration, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman was recorded in 1963 and is considered one of the all-time classic jazz albums ever recorded. Despite his extraordinary vocal ability, Hartman never achieved national acclaim and recognition as a balladeer. He succumbed to lung cancer on September 16, 1983 at age 60.

Joy Harjo, Muscogee (Creek) Nation

In 2019, Joy became the first Native American to be named United States Poet Laureate and only the second in history to serve three terms. Born May 9, 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is considered a key figure in the native American Literary Renaissance. In addition to poetry, Harjo has taught in several universities in the United States and has released five albums of original music.

Charles Gordone

1925 – 1995 First African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the Off-Broadway theatrical play, No Place to Be Somebody, in 1970.

Leonard Roy Harmon

1917 – 1942 Mess Attendant First Class aboard the USS San Francisco. Killed in action while evacuating and caring for wounded shipmates under Japanese attack During WWII. First African-American to have a ship named in his honor, USS Harmon (DE-678)

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RetroSoul features the sounds of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and the people that made it happen! Show host, producer, vocalist and composer Teddy Austin engages artists, session musicians, record executives, and their staff in conversation laced with excerpts of your favorite music tracks.

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