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Today in Black History, 1/1/2011

· January 1, 1808 The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807 went into effect. Specifically, the Act was a federal law that “prohibited the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, from and after the first day of January, in the year of our Lord, 1808.” President Thomas Jefferson signed the bill into law on March 3, 1807. The act effectively ended the transatlantic slave trade, however slavery continued in the U. S. until the end of the Civil War and adoption of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

· January 1, 1831 William Lloyd Garrison published the first issue of the weekly abolitionist newspaper “The Liberator” in Boston, Massachusetts. Although its circulation was only about 3,000, the newspaper gained nationwide notoriety for its uncompromising advocacy of “immediate and complete emancipation of all slaves” in the United States. Many Southern states offered rewards to those who identified distributors of the paper. The paper was published continuously until its final issue of January 1, 1866.

· January 1, 1842 Samuel David Ferguson, the first Black person to be elected a bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Ferguson moved with his family to Liberia at the age of six. He was consecrated a deacon in 1965 and a priest in 1868. In 1885, Ferguson was consecrated a bishop in New York, becoming the first black member of the House of Bishops. As Missionary Bishop of Liberia, Ferguson founded what is now Cuttington University College in 1889 and established the Bromley Episcopal Mission School in 1905. Ferguson died August 2, 1916.

· January 1, 1915 John Henrik Clarke, Pan-Africanist writer, historian and professor, was born in Union Springs, Alabama. In 1933, Clarke left the South and moved to Harlem where he joined study circles like the Harlem History Club and the Harlem Writers’ Workshop. He was a “self-educated intellectual.” Clarke was co-founder of the “Harlem Quarterly” (1949 – 1951), book review editor of the “Negro History Bulletin” (1948 – 1952), and associate editor of “Freedomways.” He was a founder and the first president of the African Heritage Studies Association, which supported scholars in history, culture, literature, and the arts. He was also a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and the African American Scholar’s Council. In 1969, Clarke was the founding chairman of the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. He also was the Carter G. Woodson Distinguished Visiting Professor of African History at Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center. In 1985, Cornell named the John Henrik Clarke Library in his honor and in 1995 he was awarded the Carter G. Woodson Medallion by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History.

· January 1, 1916 The Journal of Negro History was founded by Carter G. Woodson as a quarterly research journal published by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Since then, the journal has evolved into the leading scholarly source on African American life and history. It has explored many of the unique facets of African American history, including the first major scholarly analysis of the hip hop movement. In 2002 the journal was renamed The Journal of African American History.

· January 1, 1923 Ousmane Sembene, writer and “Father of African film,” was born Casamance, Senegal. In 1944, Sembene was drafted into a corps of the French Army to fight in World War II. In 1947, he moved to France where he discovered writers such as Claude McKay and Jacques Roumain. His first novel, “Le Docker Noir (The Black Docker)”, was published in 1956. Other novels by Sembene include “l’Harmattan (The Harmattan)” (1964), “Xala” (1973), and “Le Dernier de l’empire (The Last of the Empire)” (1981). Sembene’s goal was to reach the widest possible audience and after his 1960 return to Senegal, he realized that his books would only be read by a small cultural elite in Senegal. Therefore, he decided to become a film maker. He produced his first film, “Barom Sarret (The Wagoner)”, in 1963. Subsequent films include “La Noire de…..” (1966), the first feature film ever released by a sub-Saharan African director, “Mandabi” (1968), “Camp de Thiaroye” (1987), and “Moolaade” (2004), which won awards at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Recurrent themes in Sembene’s films are the history of Colonialism, the failings of religion, the critique of the new African bourgeoisie, and the strength of African women. Sembene died June 9, 2007.

· January 1, 1942 Dennis Wayne Archer, attorney and former Mayor of Detroit, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Archer earned his Bachelor of Science degree in education from Western Michigan University in 1965 and his Juris Doctor degree from the Detroit College of Law in 1970. Archer taught learning-disabled children in the Detroit Public School System from 1965 to 1970. From 1985 to 1993, Archer served on the Michigan Supreme Court and in 1993 was named “most respected judge in Michigan” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Archer served two terms as Mayor of Detroit from 1993 to 2001. As Mayor, Archer worked to repair the city’s relations with the suburbs and supported the building of new baseball and football stadiums downtown. Also during his tenure, voters approved the building of three casinos within the city limits. He did not seek re-election in 2001 and is currently chairman of the law firm Dickinson Wright.

· January 1, 1958 Joseph Saddler (Grandmaster Flash), hip-hop musician and DJ, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados. Saddler’s family migrated to New York where, after high school, he became involved in the earliest DJ scene. In the mid-1970s, he formed Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and they pioneered MCing and freestyle battles. In 1979, the group released their first single “Superrappin’” which was followed by “Freedom” (1980) which went Gold. In 1982, they released their most significant hit “The Message” which was praised for the song’s social awareness and went Platinum in less than a month. The group disbanded in 1983 and reunited in 1994. In 2008, Saddler released a memoir “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats.” In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop/rap group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

· January 1, 1965 Terri Sewell, the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama, was born in Huntsville, Alabama but raised in Selma, Alabama. Sewell was the first black valedictorian of Selma High School, went on to graduate with honors from Princeton University, and was named one of the “Top Ten College Women in America” by Glamour Magazine. Sewell earned a Masters degree with first class Honours from Oxford University and in 1992 graduated from Harvard Law School. She began her legal career in 1994 as a securities lawyer on Wall Street. During that time, she also provided free legal services to the homeless and mentored girls of color in New York City high schools. In 2004, Sewell moved to Birmingham, Alabama where she worked as a lawyer helping to raise money for public projects for some of the state’s most underserved public entities. In 2010, she was elected to the United States House of Representatives and will take office two days from now.

· January 1, 1967 Derrick Vincent Thomas, hall of fame football player, was born in Miami, Florida. Thomas played collegiate football at the University of Alabama. In 1988, he was named an All-American and won the Butkus Award as the best linebacker in college football. Thomas was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1989 NFL Draft. Over his eleven season professional career, Thomas was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, the 1989 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the 1993 Walter Payton Man of the Year winner, in recognition of his volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field. In November, 1990, Thomas set the NFL record for most sacks in a game with seven. In January, 2000, Thomas was involved in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down and he died February 8, 2000. Thomas was selected to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and in 2009 was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Derrick Thomas Academy, a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in September, 2002.

· January 1, 1977 Roland W. Hayes, lyric tenor and the first African American male concert artist to receive international acclaim, died. Hayes was born June 3, 1887 in Curryville, Georgia. He began publicly performing with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1911. From 1916 to 1919, he toured throughout the United States, arranging his own recitals. Hayes made his London debut in 1920 and soon was performing throughout Europe. By 1923, when he returned to the U. S., he was famous and reportedly was making $100,000 a year. Critics lauded his abilities and linguistic skills with songs in French, German, and Italian. In 1924, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP. In 1948, Hayes published a collection of spirituals, “My Songs: Aframerican Religious Folk Songs Arranged and Interpreted.” In 1982, The University of Tennessee opened the Roland W. Hayes Concert Hall and there are Roland Hayes Schools of Music in New York City and Boston, Massachusetts.

· January 1, 1990 Patrick Kelly, fashion designer, died. Kelly was born September 24, 1954 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He initially studied at the Parsons School of Design but in 1979 moved to Paris, France. In 1985, he created Patrick Kelly Paris and began making outfits for Benetton and upscale Paris boutiques. In 1987, Kelly signed a $5 million contract to create a line of clothing for Warnaco, which gave him international recognition. In 1986, Time Magazine described his clothing as “fitted, funny and a little goofy” and in 1988 the Washington Post said “Patrick Kelly has a witty way with fashion.” Kelly was proud of his upbringing as an African American in Mississippi and it was reflected in his work. His clientele included Betty Davis, Grace Jones and Jessye Norman. In 1988, Kelly was voted in as the first American member of the Chambre Syndicale, an elite organization of designers based in Paris. In September, 2004, his work was the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

· January 1, 2005 Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm, educator and politician, died. Chisholm was born November 30, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Brooklyn College in 1946 and her Master of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Columbia University in 1952. From 1953 to 1959, she was Director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center and from 1959 to 1964 an educational consultant for the New York Division of Day Care. In 1964, Chisholm was elected to the New York State Legislature and in 1968 she was elected to the United States House of Representatives, making her the first black woman elected to Congress. Throughout her 14 years in Congress, Chisholm worked to increase spending for education, health care and other social services and was a vocal opponent of the military draft. In 1972, Chisholm made a bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, receiving 152 votes at the Democratic National Convention. After leaving Congress, Chisholm was named to the Purington Chair at Mount Holyoke College where she taught for four years. Chisholm wrote two autobiographies, “Unbought and Unbossed” (1970) and “The Good Fight” (1973). In 1993, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In February, 2005, a documentary film, “Shirley Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed” which chronicled her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination was aired on public television.

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Gregory Lucas-Myers is a 2010 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor graduate, possessing a B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing.

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