Calendar celebrates black firsts

December 30, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Terrance Stowes set out to design a calendar that would teach people about famous black men and woman who were first in their fields.

The result has been a calendar that not only teaches people, especially children, about historic black figures, but also spotlights the achievements of men and women long out of the limelight.

Mr. Stowes left out such famous figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, so he could include people like Madame C. J. Walker and Ralph Johnson Bunche.

"I wanted to put in people who maybe others didn't know that much about," said Mr. Stowes, a staff sergeant who lives at Fort Meade and works in the Pentagon.

An artist since he could hold a pencil, Mr. Stowes has drawn a calendar that depicts 12 figures who were first in various fields, from the military to sports and exploration.

"This is the biggest project that I've done," he said.

Working out of a cramped office -- a small walk-in closet to which his wife had banished him -- the project took Mr. Stowes eight months to complete. Mr. Stowes is negotiating with area schools so children can sell the calendars to raise money for various projects.

One of his biggest successes, at least on a personal level, was a 12-year-old boy who bought a calendar, and then not only read each page but tried to duplicate the sketches.

"That's what I like," said Mr. Stowes, who added that spreading ** the word about these historic black firsts was his chief priority. "I'm not trying to make a lot of money off of this. I just want the calendars out there."

So far, he has sold more than 500 calendars at $5 and $6 each, depending on a spiral or staple-bound version. But his biggest success has not been in this country. His brother, stationed in Heidelberg, Germany,managed to sell hundreds at the base.

This is not the first time Mr. Stowes has made a mark overseas. He joined the Army to pay for college and remained in the service to see Europe. While stationed in Heidelberg, he routinely drew and sold caricature.

"I had people from all over Heidelberg calling me for drawings," he said. "When I came back to the states, I decided to continue."

Although he had considered several projects, this calendar was the first idea he carried through. Among the people he chose to honor were Madame C. J. Walker, a cosmetics manufacturer who was the first black woman millionaire, and Ralph Johnson Bunche, a statesman and diplomat who was the first black to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his work as a United Nations mediator working with Arabs and Jews in the Middle East.

Others include Matthew Henson, an explorer born in Charles County, Md., in 1909, who accompanied Robert E. Peary to the North Pole; Gov. Douglas Wilder of Virginia, the first black to hold that post; and Frederick McKinley Jones, an inventor who found a way to ship food long distances without spoiling.

The calendar, Mr. Stowes said, is not just for figuring out dates. "People look at a calendar every day," he said. "Over time, people will remember what they are looking at."

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