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Agnes Day

Microbiologist Agnes A. Day was born on July 20, 1952 in Plains, Georgia to Annie Lee Laster and David Laster. The youngest of thirteen children, Day was raised by her third-grade teacher, Reverend Mrs. Rose Marie Bryon. Day’s interest in science began when she and her older brother would walk through the woods catching insects and animals. After graduating from Mainland Sr. High School, Day attended Bethune-Cookman College in Florida where she received her B.S. degree in biology. Day then attended Howard University, graduating with her Ph.D. degree in microbiology in 1984.

After obtaining her graduate degree, Day became a research fellow in the Bone Research Branch at the National Institute of Dental Research, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She left in 1988 to join the faculty at Howard University as an assistant professor. Since 1992, Day has served as a tenured associate professor of microbiology in the College of Medicine at Howard University. She also has held the position of chair of the department of microbiology. In addition to instructing students in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and coordinating graduate courses, Day is known for her research on drug-resistant fungi and breast cancer health disparities. She serves as a Scientific Reviewer for research grants submitted to the National Institutes of Health, The National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense Cancer Research Initiatives. Day is in demand as a science expert, having been interviewed as part of a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) special and TheGrio’s Black History series. In addition, she has served on numerous panels as a scientific expert in microbiology and breast cancer research.

In 1995, Day was awarded the Outstanding Research Award by the Howard University College of Medicine. She has also received the College’s Kaiser-Permanente Outstanding Teaching Award, and has mentored over forty students. Day is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and sits on its Minorities in Cancer Research and Women in Cancer Research committees. She is also a member of the American Society for Microbiology where she is a member of the Committee on Microbiological Issues which Impact Minorities (CMIIM). Day received the William A. Hinton Award for outstanding research mentoring from this organization in 2011. She also served as a consultant for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Black Churches-Black Colleges program. Day lives in Washington, D.C.

Agnes Day was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 4, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.085

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/4/2012

Last Name

Day

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

A

Occupation
Schools

Bethune-Cookman University

Mainland Sr. High School.

Campbell Middle School

Bonner Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Agnes

Birth City, State, Country

Americus

HM ID

DAY02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

7/20/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Mangoes

Short Description

Mycologist Agnes Day (1952 - ) is an expert on drug- resistant fungi and breast cancer health disparities working in Howard University’s College of Medicine.

Employment

National Institute of Health (NIH)

Howard University

Woodward & Lothrop Department Store

Children's Center

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Agnes Day's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Agnes Day lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Agnes Day describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Agnes Day talks about her family's sharecropping roots in Plains, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Agnes Day describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Agnes Adeline Day explains how her father left the family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Agnes Day talks about her mother's childhood connection with President Jimmy Carter

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Agnes Day recalls a sharecropping story from her brother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Agnes Day talks about relocating to Florida as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Agnes Day lists her siblings and describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Agnes Day describes her early childhood memories of her father

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Agnes Day talks about taking after her mother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Agnes Day describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Agnes Day discusses the use of corporal punishment in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Agnes Day recalls her most memorable sight as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Agnes Day talks about kindergarten and first grade in Daytona Beach, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Agnes Day talks about the history of and segregation in Daytona Beach, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Agnes Day remembers meeting her third-grade teacher, Rose Marie Bryan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Agnes Day talks about her love for reading, instilled by her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Agnes Day talks about being informally adopted by her teacher, Rose Marie Bryan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Agnes Day talks about Rose Marie Bryan and her foster children

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Agnes Day talks about living with Rosie Marie Bryan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Agnes Day reflects upon being torn between her mother and Rose Marie Bryan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Agnes Day talks about the Children's Center and vacation bible school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Agnes Day talks about her reputation in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Agnes Day describes the feud between the Laster family and the Persell family

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Agnes Day talks about extracurricular activities and social life in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Agnes Day talks about her memories of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Agnes Day talks about moving from a segregated to an integrated high school

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Agnes Day describes her decision to attend Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Agnes Day describes her health problems at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Agnes Day talks about transferring to Bethune-Cookman University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Agnes Day talks about meeting her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Agnes Day talks about her graduate program in bacteriology at Howard University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Agnes Day talks about obtaining her Ph.D. degree in microbiology at Howard University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Agnes Day discusses the differences between scientists and physicians

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Agnes Day describes her doctoral dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Agnes Day talks about how she was encouraged to build confidence during graduate school

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Agnes Day describes the findings of her research on Cryptococcus

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Agnes Day talks about future research on Cryptococcus

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Agnes Day describes her experience at the National Institute for Dental Research

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Agnes Day talks about joining the faculty of Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Agnes Day discusses the implications of the excessive use of antibacterial agents

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Agnes Day describes returning to Howard University as a faculty member

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Agnes Day describes her research on breast cancer

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Agnes Day discusses her study of heritable and acquired skin diseases

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Agnes Day talks about the skin disease Xeroderma Pigmentosa

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Agnes Day talks about breast cancer in black women

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Agnes Day discusses environmental and genetic risk factors for skin cancer and protective measures against the disease

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Agnes Day talks about her coverage of the war against microbes on PBS

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Agnes Day talks about microorganisms in the body

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Agnes Day talks about her scientific publications

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Agnes Day talks about her daughter's diagnosis with breast cancer

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Agnes Day reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Agnes Day describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Agnes Day talks about her family and her brother Larry

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Agnes Day talks about how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Agnes Day describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up
Agnes Day describes her experience at the National Institute for Dental Research
Transcript
All right, so, now, we always ask this question, and what were some of the sights and sounds and smells of growing up?$$Funny you should ask that (laughter). I was just thinking about this the other day, had no idea it was coming. My mother [Annie Lee Harvey] would, 5:00 o'clock every morning, take the broom and just bam on all the doors in the apartment that we lived in, "Rise and shine, make haste while the sun rises". "Get up, get up, get up, clean up this house, go to school", and then 6:00 o'clock, she was on the bus going to her maid's jobs. And in the summertime when school was out, I would actually walk her to the bus stop and just hold onto her dress until she got on the bus. And when the bus took off, I would run alongside and wave to her. And then when the bus was gone, I could still smell the exhaust, and so even now when I've smelled bus exhaust, it triggers that memory of me running beside the bus waving at my mom. So that is definitely a smell that reminds me of childhood. A sound, (chuckle), I haven't heard this in a while, but leather belts smacking against flesh. I was not a bad child. I was an inquisitive child. And that inquisitiveness usually led to, I wonder what would happen if I did this versus that. And my brother, Larry, who when I was born I was told, told the family that this is my sister, and he made himself my personal guard. He and I would always dream up these experiments to do. Or we'd go into the woods and catch snakes, little black snakes or garden snakes or we'd catch grasshoppers and things, and we'd dissect them, for want of a better term, or we would put them on ant hills and let the ants eat the flesh. And then we'd take the skeletons in for show and tell at school. But the sound of just getting spanked for doing something that we should have known was not the thing to do. And back in the day, the neighbors had full permission to spank you. Well, let's call a spade a spade. They could whup us, as we used to say. So one day I remember getting four whippings. And I was inside my house, so thank God the neighbors didn't know about it. But in retrospect, I probably deserved it. But that another story (laughter).$Okay, so you got your PhD, now one of the, I guess, you had, you got a job--I don't know if it was right away, but with the National Institute of Health, right?$$Yes.$$And the National Institute for Dental Research.$$Yes.$$Now, what were you doing there?$$Okay, I worked at the National Institute for Dental Research for two summers prior to my graduation to keep body and soul together and to make enough money so that we can live on the five hundred dollars a month we were getting from our teaching stipends. And my advisor, Dr. Lena Austin, had done a sabbatical at the National Institute for Dental Research. And at the time, she was the only African American professional in the entire building. And that's a whole institute. So once she got in, made a good impression, worked hard, she said, "Well, you know, I have this graduate student. She's looking for a summer job." And the guy said, "Well, you know, if you've trained her, sure." So I worked there for two summers in two different labs. And so when I graduated, I didn't know if I was, indeed, gonna finish up everything in time to graduate in '84 [1984]. So to hedge my bets, I had applied for another summer job out there. And so when I graduated, thank God, I was basically brain dead. I was, I was just wiped out. I needed a break from thinking. Right now, I just want you to give me a protocol and let me go through the motions. I don't want to have to come up with a hypothesis and create a protocol to test it. So I was working with a woman named Marion Young who had just become a staff scientist in the Bone Research branch of the Dental Institute. And so she says, "Okay, so you've worked here before." And she gave me a list of things she wanted me to do and a list of papers she wanted me to get from the library. But she says, "You know my first anniversary is coming up, and my husband is taking me to Rome [Italy] where we spent our honeymoon. So I'll be gone for two weeks." So for the first two weeks of my PhD career, I had nothing to do other than, you know, go to the library and pull these journal articles. But this person turned out, she's like a sister to me now. In fact, I was older than she was when we started out, and I was hired as a microbiologist for the summer. So after a couple of weeks, she gave me a project. She said, you know, "We're trying to isolate the gene for these bone proteins to try to determine if there's a biomarker that we could use to determine if a person is going to develop bone disease like osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. But we have to clone these genes, and we're trying to set up a molecular biology lab. And since you're here, you know, I want you to be a part of it. So I'm gonna give you, you know, this project, and you can work it along with me." So I said, "Sure, great, fine. No problem." So it turns out that at the end, the last, the very, the last two steps that I had to do in this three-month-long project of working on it every day, the last two days, I noticed that people were dropping into the lab off and on all day. I didn't think anything of it. The last day, I'm getting ready to add the final reagent, I look up. There's standing room only in the lab. So I said, "What's going on?" And so everybody's looking, waiting for these little blue dots to show up to indicate that I had been successful in this project. Ten blue dots showed up. Everybody started cheering, and I'm saying, okay, I'm beginning to take this personally 'cause I'm thinking that they're thinking, oh, this little black girl. She can't do nothing. It's not gonna work, you know, because that was my weakness, thinking I'm the only black professional. We have some black janitors, we have two black secretaries, but I'm the only one with a PhD, so the weight of the race is on my shoulders. I gotta do well, so when people started cheering, I said, you know what? Somebody's gonna give me an explanation. So my boss came out, and she said, "Well, you know, Marion, Pam next door grew the osteoblast cells in culture, and Larry isolated the proteins that we're studying and purified them and made antibodies to them. And she said, you're the second person, you're the third person we've given this project to that could not make it work. She said, you made it work. You isolated ten clones of this proteoglycan protein that we want to study as a possible biomarker." And so I said, "So this is a good thing, right?" And she said, (laughter), "Yes, a very good thing, Agnes." So I was supposed to leave at the end of September because it was only supposed to be a summer job. So the boss man, Dr. John Turmine (ph.), always calls me "kid," calls me into his office and he says, "So what are your plans for, you know, when this job ends?" And I said, "Well, you know, I've been brain dead all summer, so I guess I'll start looking for a real job." He said, "What do you wanna do?" And I said, "Well, I don't know. You know, I'm a microbiologist, and here I am working in basically histology anatomy, and biochemistry." He says, "Well, would you consider staying here?" I said, "Of course, if you would consider keeping me," said, "What'll I have to do?" He says, "Well, I have a post-doc" -- not a post-doc -- "I have a staff fellow position open and available. So I'm gonna put you in that slot." I said, "Well, don't you have to do a post-doc first?" He says, "I don't have a post-doc position. I have a staff fellow position. You want it or not, kid?" I said, "Yeah, okay (laughter)." And he says, "Don't say you slept all summer because you didn't. You got this project to work." And so based on that, we cloned about seven or eight different proteins that we thought were only associated with bone. It turns out most of them are all over the body, but they have different functions, depending on where they're found. So that was my start to being, to doing molecular biology. It had nothing and everything to do with microbiology because you could not have molecular biology without having microbiology. Most of the enzymes that are used to cut DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid] and past it onto somebody else's DNA, all of those enzymes are derived from bacteria and viruses. So that's the undergird, and so I was definitely a positive addition to the lab because I was able to give the theory behind what was going on in that little, tiny test tube as well as making experiments work. So, I felt really great, and I was able to get a couple more of my fellow melon and blessed colleagues on out there in summer positions, some kids that I had mentored when I was a graduate student. And I got them summer jobs out there. So it was, it was generations basically, starting with my advisor, Dr. Austin.$$Okay.

Matthew Kennedy

Retired director of the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers, Matthew Washington Kennedy was born on March 10, 1921 in Americus, Georgia. His parents were educator, Mary Dowdell Kennedy and mail carrier, Royal C. Kennedy, who died when Kennedy was fifteen months old. Kennedy attended McCoy Hill Elementary School between 1926 and 1934. A prodigy of piano and choral music, Kennedy was inspired by a Rachmaninoff concert in Macon, Georgia when he was eleven years old. Moving with his mother to New York City in 1934, Kennedy enrolled in DeWitt Clinton High School. With help from his music teacher, Lois Adler, Kennedy entered the Juilliard Institute of Music. Graduating from high school in 1939, he also earned a diploma in piano from Juilliard in 1940. Kennedy went on to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. While attending Fisk University, Kennedy became piano accompanist to the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers under the direction of Ms. J.A. Myers on their tour of Europe, North Africa and Israel. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, he served in Southern Europe and North Africa before returning to graduate cum laude with his B.A. degree from Fisk University in 1947. Kennedy went on to earn his M.A. degree from Juilliard in 1950 and completed course work toward his Ph.D. from George Peabody College in Nashville.

Employed by Fisk University as an instructor in 1947, Kennedy became a member of its music faculty in 1954 as an associate professor. In 1956, he married piano soloist, Anne Gamble. Kennedy was appointed director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1957, and he mentored hundreds of young students for the next twenty-three years. In 1958, Kennedy made his own solo piano debut at Carnegie Recital Hall. Over the years, Kennedy toured the world as a soloist and as director of the Jubilee Singers. He was appointed acting chairman of the Fisk University Music Department from 1975 to 1978. Kennedy retired from Fisk University in 1986.

Kennedy has served on resource panels for the Tennessee Arts Commission and on boards of the Nashville Symphony Association and the John W. Work, III Memorial Foundation. He received the Achievement Award from the National Black Music Caucus of the Music Educators’ National Conference, distinguished service awards from the National Association of Negro Musicians, Fisk University Alumni Association, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Kennedy holds lifetime memberships with the NAACP and the Fisk University General Alumni Association. He is a member of the Nashville Fine Arts Club where he serves as President. He is also a member of the Nashville Symphony Guild, Gamma Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill and a recent inductee into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia.

In 2003, Kennedy released his first album, Familiar Favorites. It is dedicated to the memory of his late wife, Anne, and to their daughter, Nina who is also a concert pianist. In 2006, Kennedy received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, from Fisk University. In 2007, Kennedy’s daughter made a film entitled, Matthew Kennedy: One Man’s Journey, which won the Rosetta Miller-Perry Award for Black Filmmakers.

Kennedy was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 13, 2007. Kennedy passed away on June 5, 2014.

Accession Number

A2007.086

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/13/2007

Last Name

Kennedy

Maker Category
Schools

DeWitt Clinton High School

McKay Hill School

The Juilliard School

Fisk University

First Name

Matthew

Birth City, State, Country

Americus

HM ID

KEN03

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Charles and Anne Roos

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

I'm Blessed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

3/10/1921

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

6/5/2014

Short Description

Music professor, choral director, and pianist Matthew Kennedy (1921 - 2014 ) was the former director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers at Fisk University.

Employment

Fisk University

Interlochen Center for the Arts

U.S. Army

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Matthew Kennedy's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy describes his mother's upbringing and career

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes his parents' careers and personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his neighborhood in Americus, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Matthew Kennedy describes his early music lessons

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his early musical talent

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his academic ability

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his early exposure to music

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his first musical performances

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy remembers singing at the Bethesda Baptist Church in Americus, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the difference between hymns and spirituals

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy remembers the influence of Eva Jessye and Hall Johnson

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy talks about gospel music

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Matthew Kennedy recalls performing on WENC Radio in Americus, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy remembers playing the organ at the Rylander Theatre in Americus, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy remembers a concert by Sergei Rachmaninoff, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers a concert by Sergei Rachmaninoff, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his isolation from other children

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his awareness of black classical musicians

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his mother's decision to move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his family's move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his enrollment at the Juilliard School of Music

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy recalls the students at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy remembers receiving a piano from his teacher

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy describes completing Dewitt Clinton High School in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy describes his admission to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy talks about being drafted into World War II

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy recalls playing piano for the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy remembers meeting and marrying his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy remembers John Wesley Work III

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his time in the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy describes his assignments in the U.S. Army

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy recalls earning a master's degree at the Juilliard School of Music

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers the formation of the Famous Jubilee Singers

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the Famous Jubilee Singers

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy remembers John Wesley Work III's directorship of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his appointment as director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes the Fisk Jubilee Singers' concerts

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the role of spiritual music in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy describes his tenure as director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes his work in the music department of Fisk University

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his first album

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the John W. Work III Memorial Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his students

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy reflects upon his legacy and hopes for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his daughter's documentary project, 'Matthew Kennedy: One Man's Journey'

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy describes his doctoral studies

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

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DATitle
Matthew Kennedy remembers receiving a piano from his teacher
Matthew Kennedy remembers his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City
Transcript
When we went to New York [New York], Depression [Great Depression] days, there was a movement where schools were set up to actually help artists and performers, all part of the WPA, Works Projects Administration, or something like that [sic. Works Progress Administration; Work Projects Administration], but anyway, it was the WPA, and I entered the school that was established there on 7th Avenue, and the piano teacher that I worked with there had attended Juilliard [Juilliard School of Music; The Juilliard School, New York, New York], and she gave us some advice about actually applying for the audition and the scholarship; I had left that out before.$$Okay.$$Um-hm.$$Okay. So, how did you like Juilliard?$$Very much, very much, and there were problems there. I look back sometimes and say I probably could have made much better progress if I'd had a piano in the apartment where I was staying with the Wilsons [ph.], but when I first started, I had no piano. I would have to walk several blocks to another acquaintance who had come originally from Americus [Georgia] years ago; they had a piano and that's where I went to do my practicing, and of course I could do lots of practicing at school, at Juilliard, but it would have been so nice. And Miss Adler [Lois Adler] knew about that hardship; she brought that to the attention of one of her students, as she knew this student had, had some means--from Albany, Georgia. Her parents were into pecan plantations, and anyway, she told this student, this student arranged to have a piano, an upright piano, brought to the apartment where I was living, and that, that was a great help.$$That certainly sounds like it was, so, yes (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yes, yes.$You, in 1958, experienced a sort of a personal triumph of your own by getting this--a solo--your solo piano debut at Carnegie Hall--$$Right.$$--in New York City [New York, New York].$$Um-hm.$$Now how did this come about?$$Well, Ms. Adler [Lois Adler] was still encouraging me, and she was so encouraged at the experience I was having in giving these solo selections on the Jubilee Singers [Fisk Jubilee Singers] concerts, and she just wanted to see how far I might go as a concert pianist I believe, so she encouraged me to get the services of an agent, and of course he told her that I needed to have a New York debut, and so one thing led to the other and I was so, so, so happy the way things turned out. I received favorable reviews from both The New York Times and the Tribune, and so--but, but even, even so, things didn't really open up suddenly or quickly enough for me because see, I was already at Fisk [Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee], on the Fisk faculty, when I made the debut there in '58 [1958], so if it had been an overwhelming success, I guess I would have had big headlines and all that. And that, that didn't happen, and I, I couldn't even think of giving up my teaching to pursue just the concert career, but it was nice to have, it was nice to give a few more concerts and use the comments from the critics that I had earned.$$Were your students proud of you?$$Very much so. And the faculty would give faculty recitals also, as a part of the year's activities; those were very well received. But I was finding it difficult as, as, as involved I was now as director of the Jubilee Singers, to keep up my repertoire as a pianist, so that, that had to suffer as a great--as a consequence.$$Now, did your mother [Mary Dowdell Kennedy] get a chance to hear you?$$Yes, she was present for that debut, yes, very, very happy. I think she felt that her dreams had been fulfilled.$$That must have been wonderful to have her there (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$Yeah.$$Um-hm.

S. Allen Counter

Educator, African diaspora ethnographer, and neurophysiologist S. Allen Counter, Jr. was born on July 8, 1954 to Samuel Counter, Sr. and Ann Johnson Counter. Counter graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1972, and went on to earn his B.S. degree in biology and audiological sciences from Tennessee State University in 1976. After earning his his Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in 1979, and completing his postgraduate studies in neurobiology at Harvard University, Counter was appointed to the faculty of the biology department at Harvard.

Counter was promoted to the position of associate professor of biology, and in 1981 was appointed professor of neurology at the Harvard Medical School. Counter then earned his Doctor of Medical Science degree from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden in 1989. As a neurophysiologist, Counter conducted research on nerve and muscle physiology, auditory physiology and neurophysiological diagnosis of brain injuries in children and adults. Counter's scientific research also focused on the neurobiological effects of lead and mercury exposure, magnetic resonance imaging of the inner ear, balancing systems and multiple sclerosis.

Counter also pursued his secondary academic interest, African American ethnography, during the 1970s. He conducted ethnographic studies among the indigenous people of Surinam, South America. Counter's research resulted in a series of major articles, which appeared in national and international periodicals and an award-winning documentary on the culture and history of the African rain forest people entitled, "I Shall Moulder Before I Shall Be Taken."

While conducting research in Greenland in 1986, Counter met the eighty-year-old Inuit sons of the North Pole co-discoverers, Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary and Matthew Henson. Counter organized and raised the funds to bring Anaukaq Henson, Kali Peary and their families to the United States to meet their American relatives in 1987. Counter sought proper recognition for Henson’s contributions to Arctic exploration and co-discovery of the North Pole in 1909, and his work led to Henson’s body being moved from his grave in the Bronx, New York, to the Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Navy commissioning a U.S.N.S. oceanographic explorer ship named in Henson's honor.

In 1993, Counter initiated research studies in the interior of Ecuador, South America, where he discovered a unique group of African descendants living high in the Andes; he later produced a documentary film on these descendants of eighteenth century slaves entitled, "Lost Africans in the Andes." From 1993 to 2000, Counter led medical teams into the Ecuadorian mountains to study health problems and provide medical services; he also conducted research to reduce the severe lead and mercury poisoning found amongst the children working in the ceramics glazing industry and gold mining areas of Ecuador.

In 1980, Counter served as the founding director of The Harvard Foundation. In addition to his professional activities, Counter lectured in classrooms and on television programs to increase scientific literacy among young people.

Counter passed away on July 12, 2017.

S. Allen Counter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 8, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.258

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/8/2005 |and| 12/8/2005

Last Name

Counter

Middle Name

Allen

Organizations
Schools

Poinciana Elementary School

Tennessee State University

Case Western Reserve University

Karolinska Institute

Roosevelt High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

S.

Birth City, State, Country

Americus

HM ID

COU03

Favorite Season

None

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

7/8/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

7/12/2017

Short Description

Educator, neurophysiologist, and african diaspora ethnographer S. Allen Counter (1954 - 2017 ) was the director of the Harvard Foundation. He earned his Ph.D. degree in neurobiology from Case Western Reserve University, and was involved in ethnographic and scientific studies around the world.

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Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of S. Allen Counter's interview.

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - S. Allen Counter talks about his mother and father

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - S. Allen Counter talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - S. Allen Counter talks about his siblings and his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - S. Allen Counter talks about his mother and maternal family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - S. Allen Counter talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - S. Allen Counter shares advice from his family

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - S. Allen Counter describes his childhood experiences with people from other cultures

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - S. Allen Counter discusses his paternal grandfather's religious background

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - S. Allen Counter recounts his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - S. Allen Counter talks about his elementary school years

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - S. Allen Counter talks about his first participation in a civil rights protest

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - S. Allen Counter describes family life in his childhood community

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - S. Allen Counter recalls swimming in the Florida Everglades as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - S. Allen Counter shares the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - S. Allen Counter recalls his elementary school years, part 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - S. Allen Counter recalls his elementary school years, part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - S. Allen Counter talks about his early interest in science

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - S. Allen Counter discusses the difference in resources between black and white schools

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - S. Allen Counter talks about his interests and influences during college at Tennessee A&I State University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - S. Allen Counter discusses the origins of black colleges and universities

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - S. Allen Counter recounts influential people in his higher education experience

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - S. Allen Counter talks about his Ph.D. research at Case Western Reserve University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - S. Allen Counter describes his post doctoral experience at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - S. Allen Counter describes his research experience in Stockholm, Sweden

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - S. Allen Counter discusses his clinical work in the field of neurophysiology

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - S. Allen Counter details his work with lead and mercury poisoning in Ecuador

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - S. Allen Counter recounts his ethnographic expedition to Suriname

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - S. Allen Counter details his ethnographic expedition to the North Pole, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - S. Allen Counter details his ethnographic expedition to the North Pole, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - S. Allen Counter talks about the culmination of his North Pole expedition

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - S. Allen Counter talks about the Harvard Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - S. Allen Counter describes his position as Counsel General to Sweden

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - S. Allen Counter describes his memorial to African American slaves project

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - S. Allen Counter reflects on his life's accomplishments

DASession

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DATape

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DATitle
S. Allen Counter details his work with lead and mercury poisoning in Ecuador
Transcript
Well, these scientific explorations, were they initiated in addition to your basic research or--$$Oh, yes.$$--or did your basic research come out of what you found when you did your explorations? Let's take Ecuador, for example.$$Well, the two are kind of connected but disconnected. I mean I enjoy laboratory work. I mean being at the wet bench or working in the lab is something I enjoy. I still have a lab. I've had one now all my career to do research with. But you also want to get out in the field and do things too. And I enjoy getting out in the field, exploring places, looking at some of the medical problems, seeing how we can help, bringing in teams with expertise to do solid medical, clinical work. I've been doing that now for, you know, close to twenty years. And it turns out that my work in Ecuador started as a result of going to a village where all the children had black teeth. And the moment you see this, you know from your biomedical training, from my degree in medical science, I know that that's a sign of severe lead poisoning in children, not just lead poisoning, but severe lead poisoning. This led me to try to find out if we could look at the deciduous teeth, to see the content of the lead. More than that, you can take blood samples, and I brought in medical teams and worked closely with Ecuadorian authorities who were individuals from the medical school, also the dean of the local medical school, to go out to see these children who had never received medical care in many cases, to get blood samples to bring back to analyze here in America, Children's Hospital and other centers, for free, to help these children. And we found that these children had some of the highest blood lead levels ever recorded. The CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention, near Atlanta, Georgia] says if you have ten micrograms per deciliter of lead in your blood, you're in the toxic range. Some recent studies in 'New England Journal of Medicine' suggests that even less than ten micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood of children would cause neurocognitive impairment. We found children way over one hundred micrograms per deciliter which, you know, are not even included pretty much in the standard medical text book analysis. And we were able to--I raised money personally from--or at least medication in exchange from companies like Santa Fe (Santilebo) (ph.) who gave me twenty thousand dollars worth of chelation medication. And with a group of doctors from Children's Hospital in Sweden, we were able to figure out a way to get this medicine dispensed to reduce the lead poisoning in these children.$$What was the source of the lead in the systems of these young children?$$That's a very good question. It turns out that in these villages, and there were a number of them in Ecuador, but they also exists in Mexico and Peru, the women of child-bearing age in many of these villages have as their major task, digging lead out of old car batteries that we discard and taking that lead and mixing it with water, grinding it into a slurry and glazing ceramics, particularly, roof tiles. So some of these villages, such as the ones I worked in, in La Victoria and El Tahar down in Ecuador, they make many of the overlapping brick or ceramic tiles that you see on the Spanish homes. And they cover them with lead for two reasons, primarily, it makes this clay more durable. But secondly, it's cosmetically appealing. And so a small group of people--the upper-class members of society don't do this. It's left mostly to the poor. And they don't really educate the poor about the dangers of this. And many of them are indigenous Amerindians. And that touched me deeply when I saw this sort of stratified society with discrimination. I don't like discrimination anywhere that it occurs. And I can tell you that this was seen in many areas of South America. And so that's why I stayed there to help. So I've spent ten years on that project, going back and forth taking medicines. We've had educational sessions and the education of the community will help. It lowers the level of blood lead. We've tested before and afterwards.$$Now, is mercury also a problem in these populations?$$Mercury's an extensive problem there, mercury exposure, primarily because of the gold mines in South America. Mercury is used in gold mining to separate the gold particles from the alluvial sediment, from ore. And then the mercury is burned. And as a result of that, the villagers, particularly, the women with the babies on their backs, the indigenous women, will breathe the vapors and the babies will breathe the vapors as well. And they can get exposed through elemental mercury vapors which are quite dangerous, can damage the lungs, the brain and kidneys, but also a lot of this residual mercury will leech off into the local tributaries and waterways and settle on the bottom. And that mercury is broken down, we learned only recently, by microorganisms which are then eaten by higher organisms, and finally the fish and the larger fish, and then it sort of bio-magnifies up the chain. And humans eat it. And there again, you've got methyl mercury poisoning because it methylates as a result of its position in the biota and in the water there with the microorganisms eating it. And you get methyl mercury poisoning from eating the exposed fish or other animals, the chickens that have been exposed or otherwise. And that's a very dangerous proposition. So we found high exposure levels, unbelievably high in some of the children in Ecuador, for example, up in the gold mines.