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Today in Black History, 3/6/2012

• March 6, 1857 The United States Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford, commonly referred to as the “Dred Scott decision,” that people of African descent imported into the United States and enslaved, or their descendants, enslaved or free, were not protected by the Constitution and could never be citizens of the United States. It also ruled that because enslaved people were not citizens, they could not sue in court, that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories and that enslaved people, as private property, could not be taken away from their owner without due process.


• March 6, 1923 John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery, jazz guitarist, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montgomery started playing the guitar at the age of 19 and initially recorded with his two brothers as the Montgomery Brothers. From 1948 to 1950, he toured with Lionel Hampton’s orchestra. In 1960, Montgomery won the Down Beat Magazine New Star award for his album “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery.” In 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, and 1967, he won the Down Beat Critic’s Poll award for best jazz guitarist. In 1966, he won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance by Large Group or Soloist with Large Group for “Goin’ Out of My Head.” Other Grammy nominated recordings by Montgomery include “Bumpin” (1965), “Eleanor Rigby” (1968), and “Willow, Weep for Me” (1969). Montgomery is considered the founder of the smooth jazz school and a significant influence on other jazz guitarist, including Pat Metheny, George Benson, and Kenny Burrell. Montgomery died June 15, 1968 and was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame that same year. Wes Montgomery Park in Indianapolis is named in his honor.


• March 6, 1936 Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson, singer, record producer, and record company executive and the mother of hip-hop, was born in New York City. Robinson began recording in 1950 under the name of Little Sylvia. In 1956, she teamed with Mickey Baker as Mickey & Sylvia and recorded “Love is Strange” (1956) which topped the R&B charts. In 1966, Robinson and her husband founded All Platinum Records and produced hits like “I Won’t Do Anything” (1967) by Lezli Valentine and “Love on a Two-Way Street” (1970) by The Moments. In 1973, Robinson recorded “Pillow Talk” which reached number one on the R&B charts and number three on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1978, Robinson and her husband founded Sugar Hill Records and produced “Rapper's Delight” (1979) by the Sugarhill Gang and “The Message” (1982), which was co-written and produced by Robinson, by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. Sugar Hill Records folded in 1985 and Robinson founded Bon Ami Records in 1987. Robinson died September 29, 2011.


• March 6, 1940 Wilver Dornell “Willie” Stargell, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma. Stargell was signed by the Pittsburg Pirates at the age of 18 and made his major league debut in 1962. Over his 21 season professional career with the Pirates, Stargell was the 1979 National League Most Valuable Player, a 7-time All-Star, 2-time World Series champion, and in 1974 won the Roberto Clemente Award which is given to the player that best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team. Stargell retired in 1982 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988. He published his autobiography, “Willie Stargell,” in 1984. Stargell died April 9, 2001, the same day that a larger-than-life statue of him was unveiled outside the Pirate’s new PNC Park stadium. The Willie Stargell Foundation provides funds to support kidney disease research and treatment.


• March 6, 1957 The Republic of Ghana declared its independence from the United Kingdom, the first sub-Saharan African nation to do so. Ghana is located in West Africa with the Ivory Coast to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. Ghana has a population of approximately 24,000,000 and is approximately 41% Christian, 38% traditionalist and 12% Muslim.


• March 6, 1997 Michael Norman Manley, two-time Prime Minister of Jamaica, died. Manley was born December 10, 1924 in St. Andrew, Jamaica. He served with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and graduated from the London School of Economics in 1949. In 1967, he won election to the Jamaican House of Representatives and in 1969 became the leader of the People’s National Party. Manley was elected prime minister in 1972 and served until 1980 when he was defeated. He was re-elected prime minister in 1989 and served until 1992 when he resigned due to health reasons. Manley’s biography, “Michael Manley: The Making of a Leader,” was published in 1990.


• March 6, 2006 Kirby Puckett, hall of fame baseball player, died. Puckett was born March 14, 1960 in Chicago, Illinois. He was a baseball All-American while in high school. Puckett was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1982 and made his major league debut in 1984. Over his 12 season professional career, Puckett was a ten-time All-Star, six-time Gold Glove Award winner, and in 1996 won the Roberto Clemente Award which is given to the player that best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team. Puckett was forced to retire in 1995 due to the loss of vision in one eye. The Minnesota Twins retired Puckett’s number 34 uniform in 1997 and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. He published his autobiography, “I Love This Game,” in 1993. A bronze statue of Puckett was unveiled outside of the Twins’ stadium in 2010.

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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.