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Today in Black History, 10/4/2012

• October 4, 1864 The New Orleans Tribune, the first black daily newspaper in the United States, was founded by Dr. Louis C. Roudanez. Born in St. James Parish and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Roudanez studied medicine in Paris where he received his first degree and then studied at Dartmouth College where he received his second medical degree. He used the newspaper and his medical practice to bridge the gap between African Americans and the majority population. The Tribune was dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens and was published in French and English. The newspaper closed in 1868 and was re-established in 1985. It continues to be dedicated to social justice and civil rights for all Louisiana citizens. “My Passage at the New Orleans Tribune: A Memoir of the Civil War Era” was published in 1984.

• October 4, 1927 John William “Blind” Boone, pianist and ragtime music composer, died. Boone was born May 17, 1864 near Miami, Missouri. When he was six months old, doctors removed his eyes in an attempt to cure his brain fever. Boone’s musical talents were recognized early and in 1872 he was sent to the St. Louis School for the Blind to study piano. In 1880, his professional career was launched after he played in a concert with the famous pianist, Blind Tom. After that, Boone played thousands of concerts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. During his lifetime, Boone was a committed philanthropist who supported local causes and opened his home to the community. He donated generously to several churches and gave his time and talent to local youth. Boone’s home in Columbia, Missouri is listed on the National Registry of Historical Places. The John William Boone Heritage Foundation was founded to preserve the history of Blind Boone and Blind Boone Park in Warrensburg, Missouri is named in his honor. His biography, “Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer,” was published in 1998.

• October 4, 1927 Cynthia DeLores Nottage Tucker, politician and civil rights leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tucker attended Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School. She had a long history in the Civil Rights Movement, including participating in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march. Tucker was a convening founder of the National Congress of Negro Women and served as national chair in 1992. She also led the effort to make Pennsylvania one of the first states to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. In January, 1971, Tucker became the Secretary of State of Pennsylvania, making her the first African American female to serve in that capacity in the United States. She served in that position until 1977. For much of the last years of her life, Tucker was dedicated to removing sexually explicit lyrics from rap and hip-hop records, concerned that the lyrics were misogynistic and threatened the moral foundation of the African American community. Tucker died October 12, 2005 and one of the buildings next to the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building was renamed the Secretary C. Delores Tucker Building and a state historical marker honoring Tucker is installed outside the entrance.

• October 4, 1928 James Forman, civil rights leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from high school, Forman served in the United States Air Force and fought in the Korean War. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Roosevelt University in 1957 and spent most of the late 1950s working as a journalist and teacher. From 1961 to 1965, he served as executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1969, Forman’s “Black Manifesto” was adopted at the Black Economic Development Conference held in Detroit, Michigan. In 1980, Forman earned his Master of Arts degree from Cornell University and in 1982 earned his Ph.D. from the Union of Experimental Colleges and Universities. Forman wrote several books, including “Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement” (1969), “The Making of Black Revolutionaries” (1972), and “Self Determination: An Examination of the Question and its Application to the African American People” (1984). Forman died January 10, 2005.

• October 4, 1935 Joe Walcott (also known as Barbados Joe Walcott), hall of fame boxer, died. Walcott was born March 13, 1873 in Demerara, British Guyana. As a youngster, he got a job as a cabin boy on a ship sailing to Boston, Massachusetts. After settling in Boston, he got a job at a gym and began boxing. Walcott made his professional debut in 1890 and won the World Welterweight Championship in 1901. He held the title until 1904. Walcott retired from boxing in 1911 with a record of 92 wins, 25 losses, and 24 draws. Walcott lost most of the money that he earned as a fighter and worked as a custodian until his death. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.

• October 4, 1937 Lee Patrick Brown, law enforcement officer, educator, and the first African American Mayor of Houston, Texas, was born in Wewoka, Oklahoma. Brown earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in criminology from California State University in 1961, Master of Arts degree in sociology from San Jose State University in 1964, and Master of Science degree and Ph.D. in criminology from the University of California in 1968 and 1970, respectively. Brown started in law enforcement in 1960 as a police officer in San Jose, California. In 1968, he established the Department of Administration of Justice at Portland State University and in 1972 served as professor of Public Administration and director of Criminal Justice Programs at Howard University. From 1978 to 1982, he served as Public Safety Commissioner of Atlanta, Georgia, 1982 to 1990 as Chief of Police of Houston, Texas, 1990 to 1992 as Police Commissioner of New York City, and 1993 to 1997 as Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Brown was a co-founder of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and is known within the law enforcement community as “the father of community policing.” In 1997, he was elected Mayor of Houston and reelected twice to serve the maximum of three terms from 1998 to 2004. He is currently chairman and CEO of Brown Group International, a business solutions organization.

• October 4, 1942 Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer, composer, scholar, and social activist, was born in Albany, Georgia. Reagon was an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as a member of the Freedom Singers organized by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Reagon earned her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in 1970 and her Ph.D. from Howard University in 1975. In 1973, she founded Sweet Honey in the Rock, and a capella ensemble of African American women singers which earned international acclaim for their sophisticated harmonies, socially conscious repertoire, and captivating performances. Reagon retired from the group in 2004. She is a specialist in African American oral history, performance and protest traditions, and the producer and narrator of the Peabody Award winning radio series “Wade in the Water, African American Sacred Music Traditions.” She is also Professor Emeritus of History at American University, Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, and from 2002 to 2004 was Cosby Chair Professor of Fine Arts at Spelman College. In 1989, Reagon received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “genius award and in 1995 President William Clinton presented her the National Humanities Medal for her contributions to the public understanding of the humanities. In 2009, Reagon received an honorary doctoral degree from the Berklee College of Music.

• October 4, 1943 Hubert Gerold “H. Rap” Brown, social activist, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the early 1960s, Brown became active with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and in 1967 was named chairman of the organization. In 1968, he left SNCC and joined the Black Panthers, eventually becoming justice minister. One of his most famous proclamations during that time was “violence is as American as apple pie.” Brown published his autobiography, “Die Nigger Die: A Political Autobiography,” in 1969. In 1971, he was convicted of armed robbery and served five years in Attica Prison. While in prison, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Jamil Abdullah al-Amin. In 2002, al-Amin was convicted of 13 charges including the murder of a deputy sheriff and is currently serving a life sentence in prison.

• October 4, 1957 Russell Wendell Simmons, record producer and entrepreneur, was born in Queens, New York. In the mid-1970s, Simmons enrolled in City College of New York, but quit to begin promoting rap music. In 1984, he co-founded Def Jam Records and within three years the company's albums such as the Beastie Boys’ “Licensed to Ill,” L.L. Cool J’s “Bigger and Deffer,” and Run-D.M.C.’s “Raising Hell” dominated the black music charts. With the success of the record company, Simmons began to expand his business interests. In 1990, he founded Rush Communications, in 1991 he started producing “Def Comedy Jam” for HBO Television, in 1992 he launched Phat Pharm Fashions, in 1995 he co-founded Def Pictures, and in 2002 he launched “Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam” on HBO. In 2000, Simmons sold his share of Def Jam Records for more than $100 million. He is one of the richest people in hip hop and in 1995 founded Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation to direct funding to non-profit organizations that provide arts and education programming to New York City youth. In 2009, Simmons was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nation Slavery Memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Simmons published his autobiography, “Life and Def: Sex, Drugs, Money and God,” in 2001 and in 2011 published “Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All.” Simmons had an estimated net worth of $340 million as of 2011.

• October 4, 1999 Arthur Stewart Farmer, hall of fame jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player, died. Farmer was born August 21, 1928 in Council Bluff, Iowa, but raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He began his musical education by studying the piano and violin. He moved to Los Angeles, California at the age of 16 and worked as a musician from the mid-1940s onwards. In 1952, he joined the Lionel Hampton Orchestra and toured Europe. In 1958, Farmer released “Modern Art.” Other albums by Farmer as leader include “To Sweden with Love” (1964), “The Company I Keep” (1994), and “At Boomers” (2008). In 1968, Farmer moved to Vienna, Austria to perform with the Austrian Radio Orchestra and in 1994 was awarded the Austrian Gold Medal of Merit. In 1999, he was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment of the Arts and in 2001 he was posthumously inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

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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.