Black History Month Spotlight: Aretha Franklin & Barack Obama!


Black History Month: February 2020

To recall and celebrate the positive contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week beginning on Feb. 12, 1926. In 1976, as part of the nation's bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month.





Known as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin had a long, illustrious career. Aretha is the most charted female on Billboard, with 73 hit records. She was the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She sold 75 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling singers of all time and won 18 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards and a Grammy Living Legend Award. Rolling Stone has called her the Greatest Singer of All time and she ranked number 9 on their 100 Greatest Artists of All-time list. 


  • Aretha Louise Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee on March 25, 1942.
  • Performed at President Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration in 1992.
  • Sang "God Bless America" at the inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009.
  • Her father Rev. C.L. Franklin was shot and killed by a burglar in 1984. 
  • She released 38 studio albums, six live albums, and 46 compilation albums.
  • Suffered from a fear of flying that affected her schedule--she declined attending her Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction because of it.
  • Her voice was designated a "Natural Resource" by the State of Michigan.
  • Is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
  • Ranked #1 on VH1's Greatest Women of Rock N Roll
  • Was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005. 
  • Can't read music.
  • Voted the greatest singer of the rock era in a Rolling Stone magazine poll in 2008.
  • Grew up with Smokey Robinson
  • Got engaged to longtime friend, William "Willie" Wilkerson in 2012. 
  • Was Whitney Houston's godmother.
  • Had four children. Gave birth to her first child at age 14.
  • Aretha died in 2018 at the age of 76 of pancreatic cancer.


  • On growing up: "Trying to grow up is hurting, you know. You make mistakes. You try to learn from them, and when you don't it hurts even more."
  • On being a singer: "Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I'm using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I'm happy with that."
  • On using the Internet: "I did graduate from the fax. I went to the laptop, and ummm ... I don't go on Facebook, I don't Twitter, I don't do any of that. I text, but I forget to check my texts, you know, I'm so used to faxing, I never go to the texts, and when I do there's like 500 messages."
  • On who she is: "I'm the lady next door when I'm not on stage."
  • On her persona: "I'm a big woman. I need big hair."

(Source: Wikipedia, Biography, Imdb, Billboard, Rolling Stone, Brainy Quotes)


Aretha Franklin on meeting with Motown in the 1960s:

  •  ["When I was first embarking, going in to New York, my father went and talked to Berry. I don't know what happened but it was finally decided that I would go to Columbia and audition for John Hammond, and that's where I went. But I'm very much a Motown artist and supporter. I always have been."] SOUNDCUE (:19 OC: . . . always have been)

Aretha on if she knew "Respect" was going to be an iconic song:

  • ["At the time, no. It was just good and funky, and I liked it, and my sister and I put the 'sock it to me' phrase to it. And of course, a little later it became a mantra for civil rights groups and various other people."] 

Whoopi Goldberg reveals Aretha Franklin's dying wish: 

  • ["One of the things that Aretha was very upset about, according to Judge Mathis, is that she was very upset to discover that people were no longer giving water to the people of Flint, Michigan. And she wanted him to take care of it. Handle it."] SOUNDCUE (:14 OC . . . handle it)

Smokey Robinson speaks at Aretha Franklin's funeral.

  • ["So now my longest friend has gone home. And you went to be with our father like we all have to do one of these days. I know you're up there and celebrating with your family, and with all of our neighborhood friends who have gone. And you're going to be one of the featured voices in the choir of angels, because, you know, you would have to be. I also know, I've been on the road, and I've been watching the celebration of your life from everywhere. And I've been doing interviews from everywhere, from all over the world. The last one I did was from Brazil. And the station that I was talking on covers all of South America. So the world is celebrating you. And the world is mourning you. And the world is going to miss you. And I know that I'm going to miss you so much because I miss our talks. And we would talk for hours sometimes, just talking about really anything you wanted to talk about, or nothing. And the last conversation we had, you were telling me that you were going to do your movie and you wanted to know who I wanted to play me. So I told you I was going to leave that up to you. You were so special."] SOUNDCUE (1:37 OC: . . .were so special.)



In 2012, Gabrielle Douglas became the first black woman to win the all around gold medal for women's gymnastics



Who was the first player from the Negro Leagues to be elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame?

A) "Shoeless" Joe Jackson

B) Oscar Charleston

C) Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige

  • The answer is C: Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige. The pitcher was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1971. Charleston wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame until 1976. Jackson was a white player who was one of eight Chicago White Sox players who were banned from baseball for life in 1921 for allegedly throwing the 1919 World Series.



  • In 1884, W. Johnson invented and patented the Egg Beater
  • In 1866, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens offered an amendment to the Freedmen's Bureau bill, authorizing the distribution of public land and confiscated land to freedmen and loyal refugees in 40-acre lots. The measure was defeated in the House by a vote of 126 to 37.
  • In 1933, J. Herman Banning, the first black aviator to be granted a licence by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the first black pilot to fly across the United States, died in a plane crash. 
  • In 1934, baseball legend Henry "Hank" Aaron was born in Mobile, AL.
  • In 1958, Clifton R. Wharton, Sr. was confirmed as minister to Romania. A career diplomat, Wharton was the first black to head a U.S. embassy in Europe.
  • In 1969, Bobby Brown was born in Boston, MA.
  • In 1962, A lawsuit seeking to bar Englewood, New Jersey, from maintaining "racial segregated" elementary schools was filed in U.S. District Court.
  • In 1990, Columbia University graduate and Harvard University law student Barack Obama became the first African-American named president of the Harvard Law Review.
  • In 1994, white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith was finally convicted of the murder of civil rights activist and the first NAACP Field Secretary in Mississippi, Medgar Evars, nearly 31 years after Evers was gunned down at his Jackson, MS home.  
  • In 2008, During the Super Tuesday primary elections in America, luminaries from across many genres of music (country - not so much) voice their enthusiastic support for Barack Obama, who wins big in the primaries on his way to the White House.


Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States and the first African American ever elected to that position.

Barack was born on August 4th, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii to a white American mother, Ann Dunham and a black Kenyan father Barack Obama Sr. Barack's dad left for Harvard, then ultimately moved Kenya and his mom remarried and moved to Jakarta. Barack later moved back to Hawaii and was mostly raised by his grandparents. He managed to get into Panahous School, Hawaii's top prep academy.

Barack attended Columbia University. He later moved to Chicago and became a community organizer for a small Chicago church-based group for three years, helping poor South Side residents cope with a wave of plant closings. He then attended Harvard Law School, and in 1990 became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review.

  • Barack then chose to practice civil-rights law in Chicago, representing victims of housing and employment discrimination and working on voting-rights legislation. He also began teaching at the University of Chicago Law School -- and married a fellow attorney, Michelle Robinson. Eventually, he was elected to the Illinois state senate, where his district included both Hyde Park and some of the poorest ghettos on the South Side.
  • In 2004, Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, representing Illinois.
  • In 2008, he ran for President, and despite having only four years of national political experience, he won.
  • In January 2009, he was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.