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Senator Boozman Delivers $15 Million to Construct New UAPB Nursing Building

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Pine Bluff, AR —The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) nursing program will receive a $15 million investment to construct a new academic building as part of a major legislative package championed by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).

“I’m proud to deliver investments to Arkansas that support growth and development as well as improve the quality of life for Natural State residents. Enhancing UAPB’s ability to provide medical training opportunities will benefit students and help address the shortage of health care providers in communities across our state. I look forward to seeing how a new, technologically advanced facility will serve nursing students and faculty who will, in turn, serve the needs of Arkansas for years to come,” Boozman said.

According to UAPB Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander, the funding represents a major investment that will improve our educational facilities and equipment for preparing future generations of nurses and addressing the health care workforce needs.

“On behalf of UAPB, I would like to express our gratitude to Senator Boozman for his commitment to our institution and to this region of the state,” Dr. Alexander said. “This facility will be a game changer for UAPB. The funds will enable us to build a technologically advanced nursing school facility that will strengthen the university’s role in addressing the nursing shortage and developing and growing the health care workforce across our state.”

UAPB offers two program tracks: a pre-licensure Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and a registered nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (R.N. to BSN) program for nurses who are already licensed. UAPB Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Andrea Stewart, added that “this investment to construct a new technologically advanced facility will enhance the foundation of the nursing pre-licensure baccalaureate program. Additionally, plans are underway to develop and establish new quality health care programs.”

Dr. Brenda Jacobs, Chair of the UAPB Nursing Department, applauded the funding as a key milestone in her plans to strengthen the program. According to Jacobs, the new funding allows UAPB to build upon prior successes, “There is no doubt that this will allow us to significantly enhance our program and recruit a new generation of talented nursing students.”

UAPB Nursing Students in Simulation Lab

The legislation was signed into law on March 23, 2024, as part of funding for health care resources and education, national security, government oversight, and community investments secured for projects across Arkansas. Boozman, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, secured more than $95 million for Arkansas Health Care Resources and Education in the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills.

Alexander said an investment of this magnitude will significantly aid UAPB’s goal of elevating nursing to one of its signature programs. “The great impact of this investment will be felt by the state for many years to come. Such a facility will attract quality students, faculty, and staff and enhance the overall quality of the student experience in the new learning environment,” Alexander said.

The Congressional funds follow a major gift of $1.1 million that the nursing program received in late 2022 from CHI St. Vincent,  a leading regional health network serving Central and Southwest Arkansas, for faculty development, student support, and a variety of other program enhancements. UAPB Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement George Cotton pointed to the future as he assessed the award’s impact. “This level of funding allows UAPB to build a strong case for increased funding in Nursing and STEM. In many ways, this award serves as a catalyst that will attract even greater resources to this great institution.” Cotton stated.

About the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) is an 1890 Land-Grant HBCU with a diverse student population, competitive degree offerings and stellar faculty. For 150 years, UAPB has worked to create an environment that emphasizes learning, growth and productivity while affording a basic need to its students: a chance to advance. UAPB offers certificate and associate degree programs, more than 50 undergraduate and master’s degree programs and a doctoral program in Aquaculture/Fisheries. Students are active in more than 100 organizations, including an internationally renowned Vesper Choir, Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South Band, Concert Bands, Wind Symphony and an accomplished athletics program.

Contact Information:

Mary Hester-Clifton

Director of Communications | University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

870.575.4602

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First Black Manhattan District Attorney Wins Historic Felony Convictions Against  Donald Trump

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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg led the investigation that resulted in the first felony conviction of a former United States President, Donald Trump. Bragg’s case centered on the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels, a porn actor who said she and Trump had sex in 2006. The trial involved charges that Trump falsified business records to cover up the payment to Daniels.

 “While this defendant may be unlike any other in American history, we arrived at this trial and ultimately today at this verdict in the same manner as every other case that comes to the courtroom doors,” Bragg said during a press conference after the jury’s verdict was announced. “By following the facts and the law and doing so without fear or favor.”

Trump and his Republican supporters have accused Bragg of “weaponizing” the judicial system.

“This was a disgrace,” Trump said. “This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt as a rigged trial, a disgrace. The real verdict is going to be November 5th by the people. And they know what happened here and everybody knows what happened here.”

Who is Alvin Bragg

In 2021, Bragg became the first African American elected as the District Attorney for New York County covering Manhattan. He graduated from Harvard Law School and has served as an Assistant Attorney General at the New York State Attorney General’s Office and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Bragg is a former member of the Board of Directors of the New York Urban League and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and a Sunday School teacher at his church.

Political Science professor, Sekou Franklin, said, “Bragg took a big risk bringing the case against former President Donald Trump. Undoubtedly, this risk is both personal and political. Despite this challenge, his willingness to prosecute Trump took great courage.”

Trump’s litany of indictments started when he left office in 2020 after losing the White House to President Joe Biden. Charges of Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election continue to generate investigations and outrage. African American prosecutors have led three of the most significant cases.

In Georgia, Trump was indicted, along with 18 of his allies, for attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis brought the charges; however, the case became overshadowed by controversy when Willis was accused of hiring Nathan Wade as the special prosecutor because she was in a romantic relationship with him. Judge Scott McAfee declined to disqualify Willis, a decision Trump and his team are challenging.

Earlier this year New York State Attorney General Letitia James handed Trump a defeat after a New York judge ordered him and his business trust to pay $453.5 million in penalties and interest as part of his civil fraud case. The judge ruled that Trump fraudulently inflated the value of his real estate holdings when applying for loans.

But the latest convictions on 34 felony counts against the former President known for his boundary-breaking is historic.

“Alvin Bragg represents the new wave of prosecutors who have strong ties to public impact and community lawyering,” said Franklin, a professor at Middle Tennessee State. “Many of these prosecutors were elected as a result of protests that targeted racialized violence by law enforcement.”

Trump has described James, Willis and Bragg as “racists” – a thinly veiled attempt to tap into a vein of ingrained racism in the nation. The Republican Party lamented the convictions, decrying the trial as a political attack and a “shameful” day in American history.

Democrats view the convictions as an opportunity to sharpen their arguments that Trump is unfit to lead the nation domestically or represent America globally.

Trump faces up to four years in prison. His sentencing is set for July 11 – days before the start of the Republican National Convention.

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The untold story of a Black woman who founded an Alabama hospital during Jim Crow

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100-year-old artifacts discovered in home that once served as hospital for Blacks

  • December marks the 100th anniversary of the Juanita Coleman Hospital
  • Hospital served Black patients in Demopolis, Alabama during Jim Crow
  • Discrimination prevented Black physicians from working at facility    
  • Hospital artifacts discovered in attic nearly a century later

Mary Jones Fitts and her mother always enjoyed returning home to Demopolis, Alabama. Back in 2010, they were cruising through their old neighborhood when her mother, Mary Ida Calhoun, 85, casually pointed at a one-story blue house on East Washington Street.

“That was the Juanita Coleman Hospital,” said her mother.

Jones Fitts was puzzled. “Who was Juanita Coleman?”   

“She was a Black lady from Tuskegee who came to Demopolis and found out there was not a hospital for Black people,” said her mother. “So, she built this hospital.”

This was a life-changing conversation for Jones Fitts. It was the first time her mother mentioned the name Juanita Coleman or that a Black woman founded a hospital in west central Alabama – during the Jim Crow era.  The revelation was even more surprising because Jones Fitts is the former director and president of the local Marengo County History and Archives Museum.  Black history was her passion and she had absolutely no record of Juanita Coleman.

The revelation inspired Jones Fitts to dig for more information and bring the Juanita Coleman story to life. But in this Alabama community where Black people make up roughly half of the population, Jones Fitts was frustrated that more people did not know this story. She encountered some Black residents who were old enough to remember the Juanita Coleman Hospital but expressed a reluctance to talk about the painful history of discrimination that made an all-Black hospital necessary for survival.

“No more,” Jones Fitts told herself. “It’s time to tell our stories.”

Backstory

Nannie Juanita Coleman was born August 5, 1885, in Temple, Texas. After high school, Coleman studied at The Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama where she graduated in 1908.

Coleman’s earliest achievements are documented in a few books and research papers. In 1915, at the age of 30, The Tuskegee Institute hired Coleman as the first female home demonstration agent to uplift poor Black families with lessons in agriculture, health, and homemaking.

During her years as a demonstration agent, Coleman had an important mentor by her side – Margaret Murray Washington. Washington was one of the most influential women in America as the principal of Tuskegee Institute and the widow of Booker T. Washington.

Under Mrs. Washington’s guidance, Coleman stages what might have been her most significant achievement. She raised money to secure space and furnishings to fulfill medical needs for the Black community in Demopolis. In 1923, Coleman purchased a house on Washington Street.

2015 discovery – side by side comparison of an unidentified portrait (left) discovered in the attic of a Demopolis, Alabama home, formerly, the Juanita Coleman Hospital. The portrait bears a strong resemblance to Margaret Murray Washington (right) who served as a mentor to Coleman. Washington led Tuskegee Institute and was the widow of Booker T. Washington. The portrait is on display at Marengo County historical society museum.

Juanita Coleman Hospital dedication

Hospital dedication article published in The Montgomery Advertiser, December 15, 1923

On December 15, 1923, The Montgomery Advertiser announced the opening of the Juanita Coleman Hospital. Approximately 600 people attended the dedication. The event was held in the town’s Confederate Park.

The total cost of the 12-bed facility and the furnishings was $6,000. Hospital superintendent Coleman is credited as the owner and operator who invested $2,000 of her own savings (the equivalent of $35,000 in 2023.) “The rest of the money was secured through donations from those interested in the movement, “according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Despite her significant financial stake, ownership and naming rights, Juanita Coleman did not have complete autonomy over her hospital operations. Coleman reported to a board of trustees consisting of three Black and four White community leaders.

No Black doctors allowed

In 1923, The Selma Times Journal reported the purpose of the new Juanita Coleman Hospital was to provide care for “colored patients and training of colored nurses.” But there was one catch – Black doctors were not allowed to practice medicine at the hospital. The ban is spelled out in a single sentence near the end of the article “Only White doctors are to practice in this hospital.” The article provides no further explanation or context.

It’s possible that White leaders in Demopolis established discriminatory ground rules around Superintendent Coleman’s hospital as a condition of support or to limit competition between Black and White doctors. It’s also worth noting that a hospital exclusively for Black people also provided an excuse for White hospitals to continue the long-standing practice of denying medical services to Black people.

On the hospital’s fourth anniversary, The Demopolis Times published a thank you letter from Coleman to the community for “splendid” donations and financial help “thus making it possible for us to go a little further,” she wrote.

The struggle to pay bills

Juanita Coleman’s hospital operated on “small fees paid by patients and the generosity of the public”. A remarkable accomplishment, especially during the Great Depression when the hospital temporarily closed its doors. In the spring of 1931, Coleman took out an advertisement in the Demopolis Times and announced the “reopening” of her hospital. This time, she informs readers that the hospital doors will be open to “all licensed physicians.” This appears to be Coleman’s victory in toppling the Black doctor ban. 

It’s unknown when the hospital officially closed. The last known newspaper reference to her hospital is a furniture sale announcement published in The Demopolis Times in 1953. At the same time, Coleman was working in Washington D.C. as a counselor at an Industrial school for girls. Newspaper accounts indicate Coleman travelled frequently between Washington D.C. and Alabama. 

So far, there has been no documentation of Coleman’s life in the 1960’s. She died in 1973 and was buried in Maryland.

More amazing discoveries

Not long after the 2010 revelation about the Juanita Coleman Hospital, Mary Jones Fitts returned to the blue house on Washington Street. She met the owner, who was unaware of the building’s history. Walking through the front door, Jones Fitts felt like she was stepping back into time. Inside, she noticed a number affixed to each door in the central hallway. They were the actual room numbers original to the hospital.

The discoveries continued several years later, when the homeowner found hospital artifacts in the attic including a white cabinet containing medical instruments. Perhaps the most valuable find was a framed painting of an unidentified woman. The painting bears a strong resemblance to Coleman’s mentor, Margaret Murray Washington, the wife of Booker T. Washington. Both items have been on display at the Marengo County history and archives museum as the only public exhibit of Juanita Coleman’s hospital.

Registered nurse Inez Taylor Drake, graduated from Prairie View A&M nursing school before joining Coleman in Demopolis as head nurse in 1925. (Evelyn Inez Drake Houston family collection)

Author’s note: I’ve known for many years that in the 1920’s, my grandmother, Inez Taylor Drake RN was the head nurse at a hospital in Demopolis, Alabama. No one in my family, including my 89-year-old mother, had ever heard of the name Juanita Coleman. This led my family back into our scrapbooks where we found a century-old Demopolis postcard. On the back, my grandmother confirms what we never knew until now: “Sis Coleman introduces me to folks as her head nurse from Texas,” my grandmother wrote home to her younger sister. “Do you reckon I get to be somebody at last.”

Juanita Coleman Legacy

As a historian, Mary Jones Fitts believes she has a responsibility to continue telling the story, especially when she encounters life-long Demopolis residents who have never heard of the Juanita Coleman hospital. “Coleman was a force to be reckoned with,” says Jones Fitts. “She definitely left her mark.”

In addition to the legacy, Jones Fitts also thinks about her own mother who died two years after the Juanita Coleman revelation. What if her mother had remained quiet about this important piece of Black history?

“I wouldn’t be the historian that I am today,” says Jones Fitts. “My mother loved Demopolis. She loved the people that were here. Learning about Juanita Coleman started me on a journey that I am still on today.”

About the author: Carlton Houston is a former journalist, writer and historian. For more history stories, follow Carlton on Instagram @myhistoryvibe

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Black History Lost and Found: New Research Pieces Together the Life of Prominent Texas Surgeon and Activist

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In the 1930’s and 40’s, Dr. William Marcellus Drake was considered a “civic giant” in Houston, Texas. Decades after his death, even his descendants knew little about his story. It turns out that Dr. Drake, who talked little about himself, left plenty of clues about his journey from a young farm hand in Mississippi to surgeon and fighter for racial justice in Texas. Thanks to the digital age, we are finally learning his full story.

A century ago, a small item appeared on the front page of The Houston Informer, the city’s Black newspaper. It was a brief, three-paragraph announcement that officially introduced Dr. William Marcellus Drake to the city of Houston, Texas, with the headline: Eminent Physician Locates In Houston.

December 1923 was the beginning of a new chapter for Dr. Drake, a gifted and well-known surgeon, activist and philanthropist. His first wife, Bessie M Brantley Drake, died three years earlier in their hometown of San Antonio. Their only child Wilhelmina was a teenager. Dr. Drake was 53 years old and had already spent 30 years as an educator, physician and activist, expanding schools, building hospitals and fighting for racial justice.

Dr. Drake earned two medical degrees and was performing major surgeries in an era when Black people were turned away from hospitals or subjected to inferior care in the segregated basement wards of public hospitals. Black women benefited from his specialty in removing fibroid tumors.

“The science of medicine and surgery has made wonderful advancement in recent years,” he told the Informer in 1923. “Under the latest scientific treatment at least 50 percent of the childless women can become mothers,” he said.

Dr. Drake’s influence extended beyond medicine.  In San Antonio, he was a founding member of the city’s N.A.A.C.P. chapter – one of the largest in America at the time. In Houston, he would make a name for himself by standing up against lynchings and filing lawsuits against racist all-White primary election laws that prevented Blacks from exercising their right to vote.

 December 1923 The Houston Informer

Despite a busy medical practice in Houston, and a hectic schedule of surgeries and civic commitments, Dr. Drake still had time for his family and new wife, Inez Taylor Drake, a registered nurse from Buda, Texas. The couple raised three children in Houston’s Third Ward, William Jr., who died at age eight after contracting polio; George, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a physician; and his youngest daughter, Evelyn Drake Houston, family historian, now 88 and living in Kansas City.

Evelyn remembers riding the merry-go-round with her father. At after-school recitals, she would look out into the audience and find her Daddy had arrived on time – sitting next to her mother. “He was always there,” she said.

Eventually, Dr. Drake’s remarkable record as a physician and community leader would be celebrated with a Man of the Year award.  “Easily one of the most unselfish citizens of Houston without regard to color,” wrote the Houston Informer in 1939.

After a long and distinguished career, Dr. Drake died of a heart attack at the age of 78 on August 21, 1948. His daughter Evelyn held onto photographs and memories, but she says he did not talk about himself or his upbringing. She only knew the names of his parents and the name of the town where he was born – Egypt, Mississippi. Even the names of his siblings would remain a mystery until many years later. For 50 years after his death, the narrative of his work and sacrifices was scattered among various documents, letters and biographical sketches. It would take a digital revolution to stitch things back together.

In the late 1990’s, the internet and digital archival tools emerged as a pathway to reconstruct Dr. Drake’s life. Correspondence, census data, research papers and newspaper articles hidden from plain sight began finding their way onto the internet. The growth of searchable databases are providing clues to the lives of historical figures like Dr. Drake – answering questions that Drake’s daughter was too young to ask.

Early Influences

A close up of a card

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Chief among those questions is this: How did the son of formerly enslaved people make it from a farm in Egypt, Mississippi to the position as one of the most respected civic leaders of his generation? The answer lies, in part, with his upbringing according to a recently discovered newspaper profile.

Dr. Drake’s father, Rev. George Washington Drake, was a “pioneer in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Mississippi”, as reported by the May 11, 1911, edition of the Southwestern Christian Advocate.  Rev. G.W. Drake and his wife Sarah Jane Barney raised five children from slavery through the Civil War and into the Reconstruction era. Robert, 22; George Jr., 21; and Bettie, 16; were all listed in the 1880 census as schoolteachers. Dr. Drake – the youngest, is listed as 10-year-old “Willie”- and his sister Alice, 14, were farmhands. It is no surprise that church and education would play a critical role in his life. In fact, Dr. Drake would attend three schools that were all supported by the Methodist Episcopal Church: Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi; Wiley College located in Marshall, Texas; and Nashville’s Meharry Medical College.

A Gifted Communicator

In 1911, Dr. Drake stood in front of 3,000 White and Black people in San Antonio. It was the first day of famed educator Booker T. Washington’s whistlestop tour across Texas aimed at improving race relations. Dr. Drake was selected to introduce Washington, declaring “Few Americans made such an impression upon public opinion, removed so many prejudices and awakened greater helpfulness in relation to the solution of a problem.” The audience was moved. Washington rose from his seat to a thunderous applause. Dr. Drake’s words were published in newspapers across the country.

This was just one example of Dr. Drake’s persuasive and oratorical talent. Throughout his career, he would be called on to deliver speeches and serve as master of ceremonies. Keep in mind, he was the son of a minister and was comfortable in front of an audience. As for his connection to Booker T. Washington, recent research has uncovered his service as a delegate to the National Negro Business League Convention in 1901, an organization founded by Washington.

A Leader in Medicine

In the 1920’s Dr. Drake was one of the most vocal physicians at the newly constructed Houston Negro Hospital (later known as Riverside General). His correspondence archived at the University of Houston reveals a man determined to see the hospital succeed, even if that meant going against the wishes of his friends who wanted to boycott the hospital amid an on-going dispute over leadership.

It turns out that Dr. Drake was intimately knowledgeable about hospital operations 20 years prior to that hospital fight. A newly discovered profile published in 1908 of the Southwestern Christian Advocate notes Dr. Drake poured his own earnings into a renovation project, adding a second floor to a frame house to establish the 10-bed Wiley University Hospital. Dr. Drake was named chief surgeon.

A Prolific Fundraiser

Some of Dr. Drake’s most impactful work was his civic activism. His persuasive talents and integrity made him a frequent choice to head fundraising efforts to support churches, hospitals and the fight for racial justice including the case against Bob White, a Black man facing a bogus rape charge. When the Supreme Court failed to uphold his conviction based on lack of evidence, White was murdered – shot to death- inside the courtroom during a third re-trial. Dr. Drake was a fundraiser for the Bob White legal defense.

Additional research has uncovered a pattern of Dr. Drake’s courage to stand up against lynchings. He was a founding member of the San Antonio N.A.A.C.P chapter in 1918 and he was among a contingency of Black community leaders who encouraged editors of the White San Antonio newspaper to take a stronger stance as the wave of violence made headlines across the country.

A Defining Legacy

Text Box: Dr. W.M. Drake attending 1947 National Medical Association Conference, Los Angeles, CA

Dr. W.M. Drake attending 1947 National Medical Association Conference, Los Angeles, CA

It’s impossible to know if anyone could have predicted the impact of Dr. Drake’s arrival in Houston in 1923. Clearly, his reputation preceded him, but his forward-thinking philosophy left little room for self-reflection. While Dr. Drake may not have been thinking about his own legacy, his contemporaries understood his “permanent place in the hall of civic giants.” In 1944, Dr. Drake was awarded Man of the Year by the Houston Negro Chamber of Commerce. The recognition included this summary of his commitment to improve life for Black people in America:

“Dr. Drake’s leadership in the community has been safe, sound and conservative. His work in the church in the Houston Negro Chamber of Commerce, Y.M.C.A and N.A.A.C.P is very commendable. He has built his work and his career upon a rock – not sand – and his record will stand the mighty roars and sweeps of the gales.”

Carlton Houston is a former journalist, family historian and grandson of Dr. Drake.

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