Memorable moments in African-American history

By Gwendolyn Reese

During the process of researching the community ancestors you’ve been reading about these last few months, I found an abundance of historical information on many amazing events that took place in our community. These social, political, religious and educational events and activities were such an important part of the culture of our community and its history.  I am truly fascinated by what I am learning and I believe you will be too.

I will be writing about these events as I continue to share biographical information about the many people who enriched our community through their business acumen, political action, social and civic interest, ingenuity, creativity, an overarching desire to advance as individuals, and an even greater desire to uplift our community.

16th Street JHS, featured

These articles will be entitled “Memorable Moments in African-American History.”  I hope you will enjoy reading about these events as much as I am enjoying writing about them.

On February 16, 1959, parents and teachers joined forces to present “A Night in Harlem,” a talent-variety show. The show, the brainchild of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), was an annual event to raise money and exhibit the talent and showmanship of parents, teachers and members of various social and federated clubs in the community.

It was billed as what promises to be “THE” event of the season. The co-chairs of the event were Mesdames Dorothy Lamb (parent) and Mary Clowers (teacher). Members of the planning committee included PTA president Mrs. Viola Scruggs and instructors Mrs. Helen Smith Postell and Miss Ann Fagin (later McCoy).

Many of us have fond memories of Tom Hankerson from WTMP radio. He served as emcee and our own beloved 16th Street School bandmaster Samuel Robinson headed up a comedy team.

Can you picture the following instructors in a fast-stepping chorus line: Mesdames Clowers, Addie Sermons and Mahalia Reed as well as the Misses Fagin and Eva Jean Adams?

Gwendolyn Reese, “I AM”

The show also included the Skyliners, a school vocal ensemble, singing their version of one of my favorite old school songs “Tears on My Pillow” by Lil Anthony and the Imperials.

That must have been a night to remember. I only wish I could’ve been there.

Source: St. Petersburg Times Local and National Negro News

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