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Today in Black History, 11/11/2012

• November 11, 1831 Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, rebellion leader, was executed by hanging in Jerusalem, Virginia after initiating a rebellion of enslaved and free black people. Turner was born enslaved October 2, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia. He learned to read and write at a young age and was deeply religious. By early 1828, he was convinced that he “was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty” and that God had given him the task of “slaying my enemies with their own weapons.” On August 13, 1831, there was a solar eclipse and Turner took that as his signal. On August 21, he began the rebellion with a few trusted enslaved blacks that grew into more than 50 enslaved and free blacks. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing their white owners. The rebellion was suppressed within 48 hours with approximately 55 white men, women, and children killed. Turner was captured on October 30 and on November 5, he was convicted and sentenced to death. The state executed 56 other blacks suspected of being involved in the uprising and another 200 blacks, most of whom had nothing to do with the uprising, were beaten, tortured, and murdered by angry white mobs. Also, the Virginia General Assembly passed new laws making it unlawful to teach enslaved or free blacks and mulattoes to read or write and restricting blacks from holding religious meetings without the presence of a licensed white minister. Turner’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• November 11, 1850 George Washington Henderson, the first black to be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, was born enslaved in Clark County, Vermont. Henderson was freed after the Civil War and learned to read and write. In 1877, he graduated from the University of Vermont first in his class and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He was actually the second black to be nominated for the society but the first be inducted. Henderson went on to earn his Master of Arts degree from the University of Vermont in 1880 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University in 1883. In 1888, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana where he was ordained a Congregational minister. From 1890 to 1904, he served as chair of the theology department at Straight University (now Dillard University), from 1904 to 1909 as dean of theology at Fisk University, and from 1909 to his retirement in 1932 as professor of Latin, Greek, and ancient literature at Wilberforce University. Henderson died February 3, 1936. The George Washington Henderson Fellowship at the University of Vermont sponsors pre and post-doctorial scholars.

• November 11, 1890 Daniel McCree of Chicago, Illinois was awarded patent number 440,322 for the portable fire escape. McCree’s fire escape was designed for the interior of homes and could be attached to the windowsill and lowered to the ground, allowing people within to escape from second and third story levels during a fire. Not much else is known of McCree’s life.

• November 11, 1914 Daisey Lee Gatson Bates, journalist and civil rights leader, was born in Huttig, Arkansas. Bates and her husband started a local black newspaper, The Arkansas State Press, which was an avid voice for civil rights. In 1952, she was elected president of the Arkansas State Conference of NAACP branches. Bates guided and advised the nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, when they attempted to enroll at Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Her involvement in that resulted in the loss of most advertising revenue for their newspaper and it was forced to close in 1959. Bates was the 1958 recipient of the NAACP Spingarn Medal. In 1960, Bates moved to New York City and wrote her memoir, “The Long Shadow of Little Rock,” which won a 1988 National Book Award. Bates died November 4, 1999 and the Daisey Bates Elementary School in Little Rock is named in her honor. The 3rd Monday of February is designated Daisey Gatson Bates Day, an official Arkansas state holiday.

• November 11, 1929 Delores LaVern Baker, hall of fame rhythm and blues singer, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Baker began performing around Chicago under various names before settling on LaVern Baker in 1952. Her first hit recording came in 1955 with “Tweedlee Dee” which reached number 4 on the R&B charts. Baker had a succession of hits over the next several years, including “Play It Fair” (1955), “Jim Dandy” (1956), “I Cried a Tear” (1958), and “See See Rider” (1962). In 1966, Baker began a 22 year stint as entertainment director at a Marine Corps night club at the Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines. She returned to the United States in 1988 and worked on movie soundtracks, including “Shag” (1989), “Dick Tracy” (1990), and “A Rage in Harlem” (1991). In 1990, she made her Broadway debut starring in the hit musical “Black and Blue.” Baker made her last recording, “Jump into the Fire,” in 1995 and died March 10, 1997. Baker received the 1990 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

• November 11, 1954 John Rosamond Johnson, composer, singer, and editor, died. Johnson was born August 11, 1873 in Jacksonville, Florida. He is best known for composing The Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” His brother, the poet James Weldon Johnson, wrote the lyrics. Johnson began his career as a public school teacher in his hometown. He trained at the New England Conservatory and then studied in London, England. With his brother and Bob Cole, he produced two successful Broadway operettas with casts of black actors, “Shoo-Fly Regiment of 1906” and “The Red Moon of 1908.” He also served as director of New York’s Music School Settlement for Colored from 1914 to 1919. With his own ensembles, The Harlem Rounders and The Inimitable Five, Johnson toured and performed in Negro spiritual concerts. He also served as musical director for “Blackbirds of 1936.” Johnson edited “The Book of American Negro Spirituals” (1925), “The Second Book of Negro Spirituals” (1926), “Shoutsongs” (1936), and “Rolling Along in Song” (1937).

• November 11, 1969 George Robert Carruthers was awarded patent number 3,478,216 for his Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation. His machine was flown to the moon on the 1972 Apollo 16 mission to obtain images of earth and outer space. Carruthers was born October 1, 1939 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1961, Master of Science degree in 1962, and his Ph.D. in 1964 from the University of Illinois. Carruthers has spent his career in the Space Science Division of the Naval Research Laboratory developing space telescopes and other photometric instruments. He is also active with Science, Mathematics, Aerospace, Research and Technology (SMART) which encourages black teachers and students to pursue science and technology. Carruthers received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Michigan Technology University in 1973, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2003, and in 2009 was honored as a Distinguished Lecturer at the Office of Naval Research for his achievements in the field of space science. Since 1983, Carruthers has chaired the Editing and Review Committee and served as editor of the Journal of the National Technical Association and since 2002 has taught a course in earth and space science at Howard University.

• November 11, 1987 Channing E. Phillips, minister, social activist, and the first African American placed in nomination for President of the United States by a major party, died. Phillips was born March 23, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York. He was a founding member of the Coalition of Conscience, a conglomeration of local organizations working to alleviate social problems in Washington, D.C. Phillips led the D.C. delegation to the 1968 Democratic National Convention and, after the death of Robert Kennedy, on August 28, 1968, Phillips was nominated as a favorite son candidate and received 68 votes. Phillips said that his candidacy was meant to show that “the Negro vote must not be taken for granted.” Phillips was also the president of the Housing Development Corporation, a government backed housing venture in the capital.

• November 11, 1989 The Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama was dedicated. The memorial is sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is dedicated to 40 people who died in the struggle for equal rights between 1954 and 1968. The memorial represents the aspirations of the American Civil Rights Movement against racism.

• November 11, 1997 Rodney Milburn, Jr., hall of fame track and field athlete, died. Milburn was born May 18, 1950 in Opelousas, Louisiana. He attended Southern University and during the early 1970s dominated the 110 meter hurdles, tying the world record three times. In 1971, he was unbeaten in 28 races and was named the Track and Field News Athlete of the Year. At the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Milburn won the Gold medal in the 110 meter hurdles and following the Olympics was the first African American to win the Corbett Award given annually to Louisiana’s top amateur athlete. Milburn earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern in 1972. After the Olympics, he turned professional, but regained his amateur status in 1980. He remained a world ranked hurdler until his retirement in 1983. From then until 1987, he coached track at Southern. Milburn was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1993.

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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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