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Today in Black History, 10/10/2012

• October 10, 1800 Gabriel (also known as Gabriel Prosser) was executed for planning a large slave rebellion in the Richmond, Virginia area in the summer of 1800. Gabriel was born enslaved around 1776 in Henrico County, Virginia. He was taught to read and write and worked as a blacksmith. Prior to executing the planned revolt, Gabriel was betrayed and eventually captured, put on trial, and hung with his two brothers and 23 other enslaved men. In reaction to the planned rebellion, Virginia and other states passed restrictions on free blacks and prohibited the education, assembly, and hiring out of enslaved people in order to restrict their chances to learn and plan similar rebellions. In 2002, the City of Richmond passed a resolution in honor of Gabriel and in 2007 the Governor of Virginia gave Gabriel and his followers an informal pardon in recognition that their cause “the end of slavery and the furtherance of equality for people has prevailed in the light of history .” “Gabriel’s Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 & 1802” was published in 1993.

• October 10, 1845 Moses Williams, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Carrollton, Louisiana. Not much is known of his early life, but, by August 16, 1881, he was serving as a first sergeant in Company I of the 9th Cavalry Regiment during the Indian Wars. On that day, he participated in an engagement in the foothills of the Cuchillo Negro Mountains in New Mexico and his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation reads, “Rallied a detachment, skillfully conducted a running fight of 3 or 4 hours, and by his coolness, bravery, and unflinching devotion to duty in standing by his commanding officer in an exposed position under a heavy fire from a large party of Indians saved the lives of at least 3 of his comrades.” Williams was awarded the medal on November 12, 1896. He later reached the rank of ordinance sergeant and left the army in 1898. Williams died August 23, 1899.

• October 10, 1850 Edward P. McCabe, attorney and one of the first African Americans to hold a major political office in the Old West, was born in Troy, New York. McCabe worked on Wall Street as a young man, but moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1872 where he was appointed clerk in the Cook County office of the United States Treasury Department. He moved to Nicodemus, Kansas in 1878 and in 1882 was elected Kansas State Auditor, becoming the highest ranking African American officeholder outside the Reconstruction South. McCabe served two terms as state auditor. In 1890, he moved to the Oklahoma Territory and acquired a 320 acre tract of land which in 1892 became the town of Langston. McCabe was an advocate of blacks moving to Oklahoma and supported the idea of making Oklahoma an all black state. Between 1900 and 1906 the black population of Oklahoma more than doubled. In 1897, he helped found the Colored Agricultural and Normal School which later became Langston University. McCabe died March 12, 1920.

• October 10, 1863 St. Francis Xavier Church in East Baltimore, Maryland, the first Catholic Church in the United States officially established for Negroes, was purchased by a group of black refugees who had fled the Haitian Revolution. In July, 1791, between 500 and 1000 blacks had arrived in Baltimore on six French ships. Most of the blacks were free, wealthy, educated, Catholic, and spoke fluent French. After purchasing the building, the church was dedicated on February 21, 1864. By 1871, the church was very active with three Sunday masses, a home for the aged poor, an orphanage, a night school for adults, an industrial school, and a lending library. The church moved to its current location in Baltimore in 1968 and continues to operate today.

• October 10, 1872 Robert Penn, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in City Point, Virginia. On July 20, 1898, Penn was serving as a fireman first class on the USS Iowa off the coast of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish-American War. His actions that day earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “Performing his duties at the risk of serious scalding at the time of the blowing out of the manhole gasket on board the vessel, Penn hauled the fire while standing on a board thrown across a coal bucket 1 foot above the boiling water which was still blowing from the boiler.” Not much else is known of Penn’s life except that he died June 8, 1912.

• October 10, 1898 Dorothy Celeste Boulding Ferebee, physician, educator, and social activist, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Ferebee earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Simmons College in 1920 and her medical degree with top honors from Tufts University Medical School in 1924. Not allowed to intern at white hospitals in Boston, she did her internship at the black-owned Freemen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. In the late 1920s, Ferebee opened the Southeast Neighborhood House to provide medical care and other community services to poor African Americans in D.C. From 1935 to 1942, she served as medical director for the Mississippi Health Project which deployed mobile medical units throughout impoverished regions of the Deep South. In 1949, Ferebee was named director of health services at Howard University Medical School, a position she held until her retirement in 1968. Ferebee served as the international president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority from 1939 to 1941, president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1949 to 1953, and vice president of Girl Scouts of the United States from 1969 to 1972. In 1959, Ferebee was the first recipient of Simmons College’s Alumnae Achievement Award. The college awards several scholarships in her name each year. Ferebee died September 14, 1980.

• October 10, 1901 Frederick Douglass Patterson, founder of the United Negro College Fund, was born in Washington, D.C. Patterson earned his bachelor’s degree from Prairie View State College in 1919, his Ph.D. in veterinary medicine from Iowa State University in 1923, his Master of Science degree in 1927 from Iowa State, and his Ph.D. in bacteriology in 1932 from Cornell University. While at Iowa State, Patterson said “I learned a lesson with regard to race that I never forgot, how people feel about you reflects the way you permit yourself to be treated. If you permit yourself to be treated differently, you are condemned to an unequal relationship.” In 1935, Patterson was appointed president of Tuskegee Institute where he stabilized their finances within a few years of his appointment. Another of his accomplishments was the formation of the Black Army Air Corps which led to the Tuskegee Airmen. In 1943, Patterson proposed the creation of a consortium of black colleges that would raise money for their mutual benefit. The next year, 27 schools came together to form the United Negro College Fund. In 1953, Patterson retired from Tuskegee to become president of the Phelps Stoke Fund which provided financial support for the education of Africans, African Americans, and Native Americans. He served in that capacity until 1970. In 1987, Patterson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Ronald Reagan and in 1988 he was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. Patterson died April 26, 1988. His biography, “Chronicles of Faith: The Autobiography of Frederick D. Patterson,” was published in 1991and in 1996 the UNCF established the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute.

• October 10, 1914 Ivory Joe Hunter, R&B singer, songwriter, and pianist, was born in Kirbyville, Texas. In the mid-1940s, Hunter wrote and recorded his first song, “Blues at Sunrise,” which became a minor hit. His first R&B hits, “I Quit My Pretty Mama” and “Guess Who,” were recorded in 1949 and in 1950 he recorded “I Almost Lost My Mind” which topped the R&B charts. By 1954, Hunter had recorded more than 100 songs. Hunter was also a prolific songwriter, writing more than 7,000 songs, including “My Wish Came True” and “Ain’t That Loving You, Baby” which were recorded by Elvis Presley. Hunter died November 8, 1974.

• October 10, 1915 Harry “Sweets” Edison, jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger, was born in Columbus, Ohio. At the age of 12, Edison began playing the trumpet with local bands. In 1937, he moved to New York City and joined the Count Basie Orchestra where he came to prominence as a soloist. Edison stayed with Basie for 13 years before moving to the West Coast and becoming a studio musician. There, he recorded with such artists as Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. He also recorded a number of albums as leader, including “Sweets” (1956), “Jawbreakers” (1962), and “Edison’s Lights” (1976). Edison taught seminars at Yale University and was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1992. He died July 27, 1999.

• October 10, 1917 Thelonious Sphere Monk, Jr., hall of fame jazz pianist and composer, was born in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina. Monk started playing the piano at age six and although he had some formal training, he was essentially self-taught. In the early to mid-1940s, Monk served as the house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse which featured most of the leading jazz soloists of the day. Monk made his first studio recording in 1944 and his first recording as leader of a group in 1947. Although Monk was highly regarded by his peers and jazz critics, his records did not sell well because his music was considered too difficult for the mass market. His first commercially successful album was the 1956 “Brilliant Corners” and his most commercially successful album was the 1963 “Monk’s Dream.” On February 28, 1964, Monk became one of only five jazz musicians to appear on the cover of Time Magazine. Monk was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1963 and died on February 17, 1982. In 1988, the documentary “Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser” was released. In 1993, Monk was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2006 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation “for a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz.” The album “Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane” (1961) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007 as a recording of “lasting qualitative or historical significance.” His biography, “Thelonious Monk,” was published in 2009.

• October 10, 1927 Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown, nurse, educator, and the first black female brigadier general in the United States Army, was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Johnson-Brown decided to become a nurse as a teenager however her application to the West Chester School of Nursing was rejected because of her race. As a result, she moved to New York City and graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing. She joined the army in 1955 and served as a staff nurse in Japan and chief nurse in Korea. While in the army, she continued her formal education, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Villanova University in 1959, her Master of Science degree in nursing education from Columbia University in 1963, and her Ph.D. in education administration from Catholic University of America in 1978. From 1976 to 1978, Johnson-Brown served as assistant dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing. In 1979, she became the first black female brigadier general in the army where she commanded 7,000 nurses in the Army National Guard and Reserves. She was also the director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing. After retiring from the army in 1997, Johnson-Brown headed the American Nurses Association’s government relations unit and directed George Mason University’s Center for Health Policy. Johnson-Brown died August 5, 2011.

• October 10, 1929 Elijah J. McCoy, hall of fame engineer and inventor, died. McCoy was born May 2, 1843 in Colchester, Ontario, Canada. His parents had escaped enslavement to Canada. McCoy studied engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland and after returning to Canada found work with the Michigan Central Railroad. On July 12, 1872, he received patent number 129,843 for” Improvements in Lubricators for Steam-Engines.” This was a boon for railroads because it allowed trains to run faster and more profitably with less need to stop for lubrication and maintenance. McCoy continued to invent until late in his life, receiving 57 patents, mostly related to lubrication, but also including a folding ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. In 1920, he formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company. In 1975, a historical marker was placed at the site of his Detroit, Michigan home and Elijah McCoy Drive was named in his honor. In 2001, he was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and in 2006 the play, “The Real McCoy” was written which chronicled his life and inventions. His biography, also titled “The Real McCoy,” was published in 2007. McCoy’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• October 10, 1929 Ed Blackwell, hall of fame jazz drummer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Blackwell began his career in the 1950s and first came to national attention as the drummer with Ornette Coleman’s quartet around 1960. Blackwell was one of the great innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s, fusing New Orleans and African rhythms with bebop. In the 1970s and 1980s, he toured and recorded extensively in the quartet Old and New Dreams. Blackwell rarely performed as band leader, but in the early 1990s, he formed the Ed Blackwell Project which recorded “What It Be Like?” and “What It Is!” In the late 1970s, Blackwell was appointed artist-in-residence at Wesleyan University, a position he held until his death on October 7, 1992. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1993.

• October 10, 1941 Kenule “Ken” Beeson Saro-Wiwa, Nigerian author, businessman, and environmental activist, was born in Bori, the Niger Delta. During the Nigerian Civil War, Saro-Wiwa was a supporter of the federal cause against the Biafrans. His best known books, “Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English” (1986) and “On a Darkling Plain” (1989), document his experience during the war. In 1990, Saro-Wiwa began devoting most of his time to human rights and environmental causes. He was one of the earliest members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People which advocated for increased autonomy for the Ogani people, a fair share of the proceeds from oil extraction, and remediation of environmental damage to Ogani land. In May, 1994, Saro-Wiwa was arrested and accused of incitement to murder. He was imprisoned for over a year and found guilty in 1995. On November 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa was executed by hanging by the Nigerian military. The trial and execution was criticized around the world and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for three years. Saro-Wiwa’s diary, “A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary,” was published two months after his execution. His biography, “In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son’s Journey to Understand His Father’s Legacy,” was published in 2005. A memorial to Saro-Wiwa was unveiled in London on November 10, 2006.

• October 10, 1946 Benjamin Augustus Vereen, hall of fame dancer, actor, and singer, was born in Miami, Florida. Vereen’s first appearance on Broadway was in 1966, but he found stardom in “Hair” (1968 to 1970), “Jesus Christ Superstar” (1971), and “Pippin” (1972), for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Vereen’s most famous television role was as Chicken George in the 1977 mini-series “Roots” which won him a Television Critics Circle Award. He has also appeared in several feature films, including “Funny Lady” (1975), “All That Jazz” (1979), and “Idlewild” (2006). Vereen is the founder of Celebrities for a Drug-Free America, a non-profit dedicated to educating young people about the dangers of drugs. In 2011, Vereen was named co-artistic director of the Broadway Theater Project education program in Tampa, Florida. Also that year, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. In 2012, Vareen was inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame.

• October 10, 1955 The United States Supreme Court decided the case of Lucy v. Adams by affirming the lower court decision and stating that “it enjoins and restrains the respondent and others designated from denying these petitioners, solely on account of their race or color, the right to enroll in the University of Alabama and pursue courses of study there.” The case involved African Americans Autherine Lucy and Polly Anne Myers, who were refused admission to the University of Alabama solely on account of their race.

• October 10, 1967 Sargent Claude Johnson, painter, ceramist, and sculptor, died. Johnson was born October 7, 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1915, he moved to the San Francisco Bay area and began studying at the A.W. Best School of Art. From 1919 to 1923, Johnson attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). In 1926, he began showing his work with the Harmon Foundation of New York and won numerous awards resulting in national attention. From 1945 to 1965, Johnson made a number of trips to Southern Mexico and started incorporating the people and culture into his work. In 1998, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art hosted a traveling retrospective of his work. Johnson’s work is included in the collections of several museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

• October 10, 1978 Ralph Harold Metcalfe, hall of fame track and field athlete and politician, died. Metcalfe was born May 30, 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia. He ran track for Marquette University and became the first man to win the NCAA 200 meter track title three consecutive times. Metcalfe won the Silver medal in the 100 meter race and the Bronze medal in the 200 meter race at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games and the Gold medal in the 4 by 100 meter relay and the Silver medal in the 100 meter race at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Metcalfe earned his Bachelor of Philosophy degree from Marquette in 1936 and his Master of Arts degree in physical education from the University of Southern California in 1939. After graduating, he joined the United States Army and served from 1943 to 1946. In 1971, Metcalfe was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Illinois where he served until his death. While in Congress, he was a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 1975, Metcalfe was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame.

• October 10, 2001 Eddie Futch, hall of fame boxing trainer, died. Futch was born August 9, 1911 in Hillsboro, Mississippi, but raised in Detroit, Michigan. In 1932, he won the Detroit Athletic Association Lightweight Boxing Championship and in 1933 won the Detroit Golden Gloves Championship. A heart murmur prevented him from turning professional, therefore he began training fighters. Over his career, Futch trained 21 boxing champions, including Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Alexis Arguello, Michael Spinks, and Riddick Bowe. Futch was named Trainer of the Year in 1991 and 1992 by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Futch retired in 1998 and is widely considered one of the top three trainers who ever lived. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.

• October 10, 2005 Apolo Milton Obote, twice President of the Republic of Uganda, died in exile. Obote was born December 28, 1925 in the Apac district of northern Uganda. He attended Makerere University, but was expelled for his political activities before graduating. Prevented by the British colonial government from accepting scholarships to study in the United States and West Germany, Obote moved to Kenya where he became involved in the Kenyan independence movement. In 1956, he returned to Uganda and in 1957 was elected to the Colonial Legislative Council. When Uganda gained its independence on October 9, 1962, Obote became prime minister. He held that position until 1966 when he assumed the Presidency of Uganda. Obote held that position until he was overthrown in 1971. In 1980, he was elected president and in 1985 overthrown again.

• October 10, 2010 Solomon Burke, singer and songwriter, died. Burke was born March 21, 1940 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He began his adult life as a preacher and host of a gospel radio show. By 1960, Burke began moving toward more secular music. His first hit was “Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)” in 1961. This was followed by “Cry to Me” (1962) and in 1964 he co-wrote and recorded “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” Burke’s album “Don’t Give Up on Me” won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album and “Like a Fire” was nominated for the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. He has been credited with selling more than 17 million albums.

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Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Museum provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.

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