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Today in Black History, 10/14/2012

• October 14, 1834 Henry Blair, the second African American inventor to receive a United States patent, received patent number 8447 for his invention of the corn seed planter. His invention allowed farmers to plant their corn much faster and with much less labor. The machine also helped with weed control. Not much is known of Blair’s life except that he was born in Montgomery County, Maryland in 1807 and he could not read or write. On August 31, 1836, Blair received another patent for the invention of the cotton planter. This machine was similar to the corn seed planter in the way it was put together. Blair died in 1860.

• October 14, 1896 Oscar McKinley Charleston, hall of fame Negro League baseball player and manager, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Charleston joined the United States Army at the age of 15 and served in the Philippines. He began his professional baseball career in 1915 with the Indianapolis ABC’s and over his career had a .348 batting average and regularly finished amongst the leaders in home runs and stolen bases. In 1932, Charleston became player/manager of the Pittsburgh Crawfords and presided over what many consider the best Negro League team ever. Charleston retired in 1941 and died October 5, 1954. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.

• October 14, 1902 William Boyd Allison Davis, educator, anthropologist, and researcher, was born in Washington, D.C. Davis earned his Bachelor of Arts degree as class valedictorian from Williams College, earned his Master of Arts degree in English in 1925 and Master of Arts degree in anthropology in 1932 from Harvard University, and was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1942. In 1948, Davis became the first African American to become a tenured professor at a major white university when he joined the Department of Education at the University of Chicago. Davis was known for groundbreaking field studies such as “Children of Bondage” (1940) and “Deep South” (1941) which used anthropological techniques to explore how race and social class influence education and learning among children. Davis died November 21, 1983 and in 1994 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor.

• October 14, 1947 Charles B. Joiner, Jr., hall of fame football player, was born in Many, Louisiana. Joiner played college football at Grambling State University. He graduated in 1969 and was selected by the Houston Oilers of the American Football League that same year. Over his 18 season professional career, Joiner played for the Oilers, Cincinnati Bengals, and the San Diego Chargers and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection. While playing with the Bengals, he set a franchise record for most yards receiving in a single game. Joiner retired in 1986 and has served as the wide receivers coach for the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. He is currently the wide receivers coach for the Chargers. Joiner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

• Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this work to end racial segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. He was the youngest person to ever receive the prize. King was born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He entered Morehouse College at the age of 15 and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1948. He then earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951 and his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955. King led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and in 1957 helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, serving as its first president. That same year, he was the recipient of the NAACP Spingarn Medal. On August 28, 1963, King led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. In 1980, the Department of the Interior designated his boyhood home and several nearby buildings the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King and on January 17, 2000 Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time. A memorial to King at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. opened in 2011. “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” was published in 1998. King’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• October 14, 1999 Julius Kambarage Nyerere, first President of Tanganyika (now the United Republic of Tanzania), died. Nyerere was born April 13, 1922 in Butiama, Tanganyika. He received a scholarship to attend Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda where he earned a teaching diploma. He taught biology and English for three years before getting a scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh in England where he earned his Masters of Arts Degree in economics and history in 1952. He was the first Tanganyikan to study at a British university and the second to gain a university degree outside of Africa. In 1953, he was elected president of the Tanganyika African Association which he transformed into the leading political organization in the country. During this time, he stopped teaching and traveled the country garnering support for independence from England. On December 9, 1961, Tanganyika gained its independence and Nyerere became its first prime minister and a year later he was elected president. In 1964, he led the union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika to form Tanzania. Nyerere retired as president in 1985 and is recognized as the “father of the nation.” Nyerere authored several books, including “African Socialism” (1961), “Freedom and Unity” (1967), and “Freedom and Socialism” (1968). He received honorary degrees from universities around the world, including Howard and Lincoln Universities in the United States. In 2007, he was posthumously awarded the Katonga, Uganda’s highest military medal, in honor of his opposition to colonialism. In 2009, Nyerere was named “World Hero of Social Justice” by the United Nations General Assembly. The Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam is named in his honor. His biography, “We Must Run While They Walk: A Portrait of Africa’s Julius Nyerere,” was published in 1971.

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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.