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Today in Black History, 08/03/2015 | Matthew James Perry, Jr

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August 3, 1921 Matthew James Perry, Jr., the first African American from the Deep South appointed to the federal judiciary, was born in Columbia, South Carolina. After serving in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946, Perry earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948 and his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1951 from South Carolina State College (now University). He served as chief counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s South Carolina Conference of Branches and in that capacity argued hundreds of cases that helped desegregate schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other public places, including the integration of Clemson University in 1963. He also served for 16 years on the NAACP national board. Perry was appointed to the United States Military Court of Appeals in 1976, the second African American to serve on that court. He was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina in 1979, South Carolina’s first African American federal judge. He assumed senior status in 1995. Perry died July 29, 2011. The courthouse in Columbia is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 08/02/2015 | Claude Albert Barnett

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August 2, 1967 Claude Albert Barnett, entrepreneur and founder of the Associated Negro Press, died. Barnett was born September 16, 1889 in Sanford, Florida. He earned an engineering degree from Tuskegee Institute in 1906 with the institution’s highest award. He began reproducing photographs of notable Black luminaries and selling them in 1913 and had transformed this endeavor into a thriving business by 1917. Barnett created the Associated Negro Press, a service designed to provide primarily African American newspapers with a reliable stream of news stories, in 1919. At its peak in the early 1950s, the ANP serviced 200 newspapers around the world. Barnett served as a consultant to the United States Department of Agriculture during the 1930s and served as the president of the board of Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois from 1938 to 1942. He also served on the boards of the American Red Cross and Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company. The President of Haiti presented him with the Chevalier Order of Honor and Merit in 1951 and the next year the President of Liberia bestowed upon him the title of Commander of the Order of Star of Africa. Barnett’s story is told in “A Black National News Service, The Associated Negro Press and Claude Barnett, 1919 – 1945” (1984).

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Today in Black History, 08/01/2015 | The Universal Negro Improvement Association

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August 1, 1914 The Universal Negro Improvement Association was founded in Jamaica by Marcus Garvey with a mission “to unite all people of African ancestry of the world to one great body to establish a country and absolute government of their own.” Garvey moved to New York City in 1916 and founded the New York Division of the UNIA. The Negro World was established as a weekly newspaper to express the ideas of the organization August 17, 1918. At its peak the newspaper had a circulation of 500,000. In 1919, Black Star Line, Inc. and the Negro Factories Corporation were established. These entities provided income to the organization and jobs for its members. The association had more than 1,900 divisions in 40 countries by 1920. That year they had their first international convention in New York City with more than 20,000 members in attendance. After Garvey was deported to Jamaica in 1927, divisions occurred in the association and over the years membership and the influence of the organization declined. The UNIA continues to operate today. Many of the papers of the association are held at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Today in Black History, 07/31/2015 | Dorothy Edwards Brunson

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July 31, 2011 Dorothy Edwards Brunson, the first African American woman to own a radio station, died. Brunson was born March 13, 1938 in Glensville, Georgia but raised in Harlem, New York. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business and finance from Empire State College. Brunson joined the Inner City Broadcasting Company, which was $1 million in debt, in 1973 as general manager. She reduced staff, restructured the debt and bought another radio station. By 1978, the company had grown from $500,000 in annual revenue to $23 million in annual revenue with radio stations in seven major markets. Brunson left Inner City Broadcasting in 1979 and bought a radio station in Baltimore, Maryland. She later bought radio stations in Atlanta, Georgia and Wilmington, North Carolina. She sold the radio stations in 1990 for $3.6 million and bought a television station in Burlington, New Jersey, the first African American woman to establish a television station. Brunson sold that station in 2004.

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Today in Black History, 07/30/2015 | The Lott Cary Birth Site

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July 30, 1980 The Lott Cary Birth Site also known as the Lott Cary House near Charles City, Virginia was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The wooden frame house was built in the late 18th century. It actually was owned by Cary’s owner and Cary, who was born enslaved in 1780, probably was born in the slave quarters adjourning the house. Cary learned to read from the bible as a young man and later attended a school for enslaved youth. Because of his education, diligence, and valuable work, he was rewarded by his owner with small tips from the money he earned. Cary was able to purchase his freedom and that of his two children for $850 in 1813. That same year, he became an official Baptist minister. Cary led a missionary team to Liberia in 1821 and engaged in evangelism, education, and health care. He also established the first Baptist church in Liberia, the Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2001, and several schools. He became acting Governor of Liberia in August, 1828. Cary died November 10, 1828. Cary Street and the Carytown shopping district in Richmond, Virginia are named in his honor. The Lott Cary Foreign Mission Convention helps churches extend their Christian witness to the end of the earth. “Biography of Elder Lott Cary, Late Missionary to Africa” was published in 1837.

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Today in Black History, 07/29/2015 | Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

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July 29, 1794 Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was dedicated. Mother Bethel was founded by Richard Allen and organized by African American members of St. George’s Methodist Church who walked out due to racial segregation in their worship services. The current structure was built in 1890 and is the oldest church property in the United States continuously owned by African Americans. Bishop Allen, his wife Sarah, and Bishop Morris Brown are entombed in the current structure. The church today has approximately 700 members. Mother Bethel was designated a National Historic Landmark March 16, 1972 and a Pennsylvania Historical Marker was dedicated in 1991.

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Today in Black History 07/28/2015 | Joseph Charles Jenkins

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July 28, 1959 Joseph Charles Jenkins, the first officially recognized African American commissioned officer in the United States Coast Guard, died. Jenkins was born in 1914 in Detroit, Michigan. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan and his Master of Business Administration degree from Wayne State University. In the late 1930s, Jenkins helped organize what would become the 1279th Combat Engineer Battalion of the Michigan National Guard in the late 1930s. Jenkins enlisted in the coast guard in 1942 as a boatswain’s mate first class and was quickly promoted to chief. After completing officer training, he was commissioned an ensign April 14, 1943. Jenkins completed active duty with the coast guard in 1945 and returned to the Michigan National Guard in the African American Engineering Unit where he rose to the rank of captain. He resigned from the guard in 1947 and went to work with the Michigan State Highway Department where he was the assistant director of the Metropolitan Detroit area at the time of his death.

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Today in Black History 07/27/2015 | James Edward Maceo West

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July 27, 2007 James Edward Maceo West received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor the United States confers on people for achievements related to technological progress, from President George W. Bush. West was born February 10, 1931 in Farmville, Virginia. He was fascinated with electronics as a young boy. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Temple University in 1957. After graduating, he was hired by Bell Laboratories as an acoustical scientist. West and a co-worker developed the foil electret microphone in 1962 and received patent number 3,118,022 January 14, 1964. Their device was inexpensive to manufacture, compact, durable, and could hold a charge without being connected to a power source. Approximately 90% of microphones used today are based on their invention, including telephones, hearing aids, baby monitors, and other everyday items. Also while at Bell Labs, West co-founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees to address placement and promotional concerns of Black Bell Laboratory employees. West retired in 2001 is currently a research professor at John Hopkins University. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1998 and inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999.

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Today in Black History 07/26/2015 | President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981

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July 26, 1948 President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 which partly stated “It is hereby to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” The order also established a committee to investigate and make recommendations to the civilian leadership of the military to realize the policy. The last of the all-Black units in the United States military was abolished in September, 1954.

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Today in Black History 07/25/2015 | John Cornelius “Johnny” Hodges

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 July 25, 1906 John Cornelius “Johnny” Hodges, hall of fame jazz alto saxophonist, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hodges was mostly self-taught. He is best known for his solo work with Duke Ellington’s big band, being prominently featured on recordings such as “Confab with Rab,” “Jeep’s Blues,” and “Hodge Podge.” Hodges played with Ellington from 1928 to 1950 when he left to lead his own band. Recordings with Hodges as lead include “Castle Rock” (1951), “Blues-A- Plenty” (1958), and “Triple Play” (1967). Hodges died May 11, 1970. Ellington stated in his eulogy that Hodges had “a tone so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to the eye.” Hodges was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1970.

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Today in Black History 07/24/2015 | Caterina Jarboro

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July 24, 1908 Caterina Jarboro, the first Black opera singer to sing on an opera stage in the United States, was born Katherine Lee Yarborough in Wilmington, North Carolina. Jarboro was sent to Brooklyn, New York at 13 to study music. She also studied in Paris, France and made her grand opera debut in Milan, Italy in “Aide” in 1929. She continued to sing in France and Italy until 1933 when she joined the Chicago Opera Company and became the first Black singer to sing on an opera stage in the U. S. After her final engagement with the Chicago Opera in 1935, Jarboro sang for four seasons in Europe. She returned to the U. S. in 1941 and retired as a singer in 1955. Jarboro died August 13, 1986.

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Today in Black History 07/23/2015 | William Grant Still

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 July 23, 1936 William Grant Still became the first African American to conduct a major American orchestra when he conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Still was born May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi but raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. He attended Wilberforce University where he conducted the university band and started to compose. After serving in the United States Navy during World War I, he worked as an arranger for W. C. Handy and later played in the pit orchestra for the musical “Shuffle Along.” Still was the recipient of the first Guggenheim Fellowship in 1934. His opera “Troubled Island” (1939) was performed by the New York City Opera March 31, 1949, the first opera by an African American to be performed by a major opera company. Despite selling out the first three nights and receiving 22 curtain calls on opening night, the opera was shut down, never to be staged again. “Just Tell the Story: Troubled Island” (2006) delves into some of the reasons why. Still eventually moved to Los Angeles, California where he arranged music for films, including “Pennies From Heaven” (1936) and “Lost Horizon” (1937). He received honorary doctorate degrees from a number of institutions. Still died December 3, 1978. His opera “A Bayou Legend” became the first opera by an African American to be performed on national television when it premiered on PBS June 15, 1981. His biography,” In One Lifetime: A Biography of William Grant Still”,” was published in 1984.

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Today in Black History 07/22/2015 | Emlen Lewis Tunnell

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July 22, 1975 Emlen Lewis Tunnell, the first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died. Tunnell was born March 29, 1925 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. After serving two years in the United States Coast Guard during World War II, he played college football at the University of Iowa. He played quarterback, halfback, and on defense and led the team in passing in the 1946 season and receiving in the 1947 season. Tunnell began his professional football career with the New York Giants in 1948, the first African American to play for the team. Tunnell played in the National Football League for 14 seasons and was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. When he retired in 1961, he held the record for career interceptions with 79. After retiring, Tunnell served as a scout and assistant coach with the Giants. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame August 5, 1967. Tunnell published his autobiography, “Footsteps of a Giant”, in 1966. 

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Today in Black History 07/21/2015 | The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs

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 July 21, 1896 The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs was founded in Washington, D.C. by the merger of the National Federation of Afro-American Women, the Women’s Era Clubs of Boston, and the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C. Their original mission was, “to furnish evidence of the moral, mental and material progress made by people of color through the efforts of our women.” Membership had grown to 300,000 nationwide by 1918. Today, their objectives include working for the economic, moral, religious and social welfare of women and youth, protecting the rights of women and youth, raising the standard and quality of life in home and family, enforcement of civil and political rights for African Americans and all citizens, promoting the education of women and youth, obtaining for African American women the opportunity of reaching the highest levels in all fields of human endeavor, and promoting inter-racial understanding so that justice and goodwill may prevail among all people.

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Today in Black History, 07/20/2015 | The first National Conference on Black Power

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July 20, 1967 The first National Conference on Black Power convened in Newark, New Jersey with Nathan Wright, Jr. as the chairman. More than 1,000 delegates representing 286 organizations and institutions from 126 cities gathered to discuss the most pressing African American issues of the day. A Black Power Manifesto was officially adopted which condemned “neo-colonialist control” of Black populations worldwide and called for the circulation of a “philosophy of Blackness” that would unite and direct the oppressed in common cause.
 

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Today in Black History, 07/19/2015 | Patricia Roberts Harris

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July 19, 1979 Patricia Roberts Harris became the first African American woman to hold a post in a presidential cabinet when President Jimmy Carter appointed her Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Harris was born May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Howard University in 1945 and graduated at the top of her class from the George Washington University National Law Center in 1960. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her Ambassador to Luxembourg May 19, 1965, the first African American to serve as a United States Ambassador, where she served until 1967. Harris was named dean of Howard University’s School of Law in 1969, a position she held until 1972. President Carter appointed Harris Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977 and on this date she became Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and served until 1981. She was appointed a professor at the George Washington University National Law Center in 1982, a position she held until her death March 23, 1985. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2000 and she was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003. The Patricia R. Harris Education Center in Washington, D. C. is named in her honor.
 

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Today in Black History 07/18/2015 | Nelson Mandela

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July 18, 1918 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first South African president elected in a fully representative democratic election, was born in Mvezo, South Africa. Mandela enrolled at Fort Hare University but was expelled because of his involvement in a Students’ Representative Council boycott against university policies. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and earned his law degree at the University of South Africa in 1942. Mandela became active in politics after 1948, playing a prominent role in the African National Congress’ 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He became leader of the ANC’s armed wing in 1961 and coordinated sabotage campaigns against military and government targets. With the help of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, the South African government arrested Mandela in 1962 and he spent the next 27 years in prison. Following his release from prison in 1990, Mandela returned to the leadership of the ANC and between 1990 and 1994 led the party’s negotiations with the government for multi-racial elections. Mandela was elected President of South Africa in 1994 in the country’s first multi-racial election. He served as president until his retirement in 1999. He was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2004 and 2005 and one of the 100 Most Influential People of the Century. Mandela founded The Elders in 2007, a group of world leaders who contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world’s toughest problems. He was also active in the fight against AIDS. Mandela received more than 250 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize December 10, 1993 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush July 9, 2002. The United Nations General Assembly announced in 2009 that July 18 would be known as Mandela Day to mark his contribution to world freedom. His autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” was published in 1994 and “Conversations with Myself,” a collection of his writings and interviews, was published in 2010. Mandela died December 5, 2013. His name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

 

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Today in Black History 07/17/2015 | Robert Clifton Weaver

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 July 17, 1997 Robert Clifton Weaver, the first African American to hold a cabinet level position in a United States President’s administration, died. Weaver was born December 29, 1907 in Washington, D. C. He attended Harvard University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in economics in 1929, his Master of Arts degree in 1931, and his Ph. D. in 1934. Weaver was an expert on urban housing and wrote several books on the subject, including “The Negro Ghetto” (1948) and “The Urban Complex: Human Values in Urban Life” (1964). Weaver was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson the first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1966, a position he held until 1968. After leaving the cabinet post, Weaver became president of Baruch College in 1969 and professor of urban affairs at Hunter College in 1970, from which he retired in 1978. Weaver was awarded the 1962 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal and the HUD headquarters building was renamed the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building in 2000. Robert Clifton Weaver Way in northeast Washington, D. C. is also named in his honor.

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Today in Black History 07/16/2015 | Ida B. Wells

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July 16, 1862 Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, journalist and civil and women’s rights activist, was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Wells was freed at the end of the Civil War. She attended Rust College but was expelled for her rebellious behavior after confronting the president of the college. She became co-owner and editor of Free Speech and Headlight, an anti-segregationist newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1889. In 1891, a grocery store owned by three Black men was perceived to be taking away a substantial amount of business from a White owned grocery store across the street. The Black owned store was invaded by a mob resulting in three White men being shot and injured. The three Black owners, who were friends of Wells, were jailed and subsequently lynched. The murder of her friends sparked Wells’ interest in investigative journalism about lynching and becoming the leader of the anti-lynching crusade. She published “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all Its Phases” in 1892 and “A Red Record, 1892-1894,” which documented lynchings since the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1895. Wells and other Black leaders organized a boycott of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois to protest lynchings in the South. Wells was also significantly involved in the founding of the National Association of Colored Women, the National Afro-American Council, which later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Women’s Era Club, which was renamed the Ida B. Wells Club. She spent the latter 30 years of her life working on urban reform in Chicago. Wells died March 25, 1931. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 1990. “Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells” was published in 1970. Her life is also the subject of a musical drama, “Constant Star,” which debuted in 2006. The Ida B. Wells Housing Project in Chicago is named in her honor. Wells-Barnett’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. 

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Today in Black History 07/15/2015 | All-Negro Comics

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July 15, 1947
All-Negro Comics, the first known comic magazine written and drawn by African American writers and artists, was copyrighted. The only known issue of the magazine was a 48-page, standard sized comic book with a glossy color cover and newsprint interior and a June, 1947 issue date. The magazine sold for 15 cents. Time magazine referred to the magazine as “the first to be drawn by Negro artists and peopled entirely by Negro characters.”

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