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Today in Black History, 10/30/2012

• October 30, 1895 Ossian Haven Sweet, physician, was born in Orlando, Florida. At the age of six, Sweet witnessed the lynching and burning of a neighbor who had been accused of raping a white girl. That memory would haunt Sweet throughout his life. In 1917, Sweet earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Wilberforce University and from there he went to Howard University where he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1921. Sweet then moved to Detroit, Michigan where he could not find work at a hospital due to his race. He was able to establish an office in “Black Bottom” where overpopulation and an influx of migrants who lacked medical care caused diseases and created threats to life. Recognizing the need for further medical training, in 1923 Sweet moved to Vienna and Paris to study. In Paris, he was able to experience life without prejudice and for the first time was treated as an equal to whites. In 1924, Sweet returned to Detroit and started work at Dunbar Hospital, Detroit’s first black hospital. In 1925, Sweet bought a house in an all-white neighborhood of Detroit. On the second day after the Sweets had moved in, a crowd of whites gathered outside the house and began to throw stones at the house. Several of Sweet’s friends and relatives were in the house and armed. Shots were fired from the house and one white man was killed. All eleven African Americans in the house were arrested. After two trials, Sweet and the others were acquitted of murder charges by an all-white jury. After the acquittal, Sweet’s life went downhill due to the death of his daughter and wife and financial difficulties. On March 20, 1960, Sweet committed suicide. The Ossian H. Sweet House in Detroit was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. “Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age” (2004) tells the story of Sweet and his battle for equality. Sweet’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• October 30, 1916 Leon Day, hall of fame Negro League baseball player, was born in Alexandria, Virginia. Day made his professional baseball debut in 1934 and was one of the top pitchers in the Negro leagues from the mid-1930s through the 1940s. From 1935 to 1942, he appeared in a record seven East – West All-Star games and in 1942 set a Negro league record by striking out 18 batters in a single game. Day served in the United States Army from 1944 to 1946 during World War II. He retired from baseball in 1955 and later worked as a bartender, security guard, and janitor. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995 and died shortly after on March 13, 1995. Leon Day Park in Baltimore, Maryland is named in his honor.

• October 30, 1922 Marie Van Britton Brown, inventor, was born in Jamaica Queens, New York. On December 2, 1969, Brown received patent number 3,482,037 for a closed circuit television security system. The system used a motorized camera that slid up and down looking through four peepholes. Anything the camera picked up was shown on a monitor viewed by the occupant of the home. An electrical switch allowed the occupant to unlock the door by remote control. Brown died February 2, 1999. Not much else is known of her life.

• October 30, 1930 Clifford Brown, hall of fame jazz trumpeter, was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Brown started playing professionally after briefly attending college. He performed with Lionel Hampton and Art Blakey, among others, before forming his own group with Max Roach. Brown won the Down Beat critic’s poll for the New Star of the Year in 1954. Albums by Brown include “Clifford Brown: Jazz Immortal” (1954), “Study in Brown” (1955), and “Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street” (1956). Brown was killed in an automobile accident on June 26, 1956. Despite leaving behind only four years of recordings, Brown had considerable influence on later jazz trumpeters, including Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, and Wynton Marsalis. In 1972, Brown was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame and each year Wilmington, Delaware hosts the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival. Brown’s biography, “Clifford Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter,” was published in 2001.

• October 30, 1933 Warith Deen Mohammed, Muslim leader and author, was born Wallace Delaney Muhammad in Hamtramck, Michigan. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mohammed served as a minister under his father, Elijah Muhammed, in Philadelphia before being excommunicated for denying the divinity of Wallace Ford Muhammad. In 1961, he was sent to federal prison for 14 months for refusing induction into the United States military. After his father’s death in 1975, Mohammed was accepted by the Nation of Islam as its leader. He introduced many reforms intended to bring the organization closer to traditional Islam and renamed it the American Society of Muslims. Mohammed was instrumental in establishing interfaith cooperation with other religious communities, especially Christians and Jews. In 1977, he led the largest delegation of Muslim Americans on a pilgrimage to the Sacred House in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In 1992, Mohammed was cited for exemplary work in the religion of Islam by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and given The Gold Medal of Recognition, Egypt’s highest and most distinguished religious honor. Mohammed authored a number of books, including “The Man and Woman in Islam” (1976), “Religion on the Line” (1983), and “Life the Final Battlefield” (2008). Mohammed died September 9, 2008.

• October 30, 1989 Frank L. Mingo, hall of fame advertising executive, died. Mingo was born December 13, 1939 in McComb, Mississippi. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Roosevelt University and a Master of Science degree in advertising from Northwestern University. After graduating, Mingo went to work for J. Walter Thompson where he became their first black account executive with clients that included Oscar Meyer and Sears Roebuck. Mingo next moved to McCann-Erickson as a vice president and account supervisor. In that capacity, he helped Miller Brewing Company introduce their Miller Lite to the market. In 1977, Mingo co-founded Mingo-Jones Advertising with clients that included Walt Disney Productions and Westinghouse Electric Corporation. In 1986, Jones left the firm and it was renamed The Mingo Group. Mingo also worked with the NAACP and the National Urban League to expose minorities to careers in advertising. Mingo was posthumously inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

• October 30, 2007 John Youie Woodruff, hall of fame track and field athlete, died. Woodruff was born July 5, 1915 in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. As a 21 year old college freshman, Woodruff won the 800 meter Gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games. Woodruff went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1939 and a master’s degree in the same field from New York University in 1947. From 1941 to 1945, he served in the United States military, rising to the rank of captain. He reentered military service during the Korean War and was honorably discharged in 1957 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Woodruff was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1978 and annually a 5 kilometer race is held in Connellsville to honor him.

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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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