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Today in Black History, 5/29/2012

• May 29, 1914 Henry Ransom Cecil McBay, chemist and educator, was born in Mexia, Texas. McBay earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Wiley College in 1934 and his Master of Science degree from Atlanta University in 1936. McBay then taught at several educational institutions before accepting a position at the University of Chicago. While doing research at the university, McBay made discoveries that allowed chemists around the world to create inexpensive peroxide compounds which were useful as building blocks in many chemical reactions. As a result of that research, McBay received the Elizabeth Norton Prize for Excellence at Research in Chemistry in 1944 and 1945. In 1945, McBay earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and returned as an assistant professor to Morehouse College. McBay taught in the Atlanta University system for the next 41 years. In 1951, McBay developed a chemistry education program in Liberia on behalf of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Other honors and awards earned by McBay include The Herty Award for Outstanding Contribution to Chemistry from the American Chemical Society of Georgia in 1976 and The Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry from the American Chemical Society of the Northeast in 1978. The Henry McBay Endowed Chemistry Scholarship was established at Morehouse in 1986 and the Henry C. McBay Research Fellowship was established by the United Negro College Fund in 1995. McBay died September 23, 1995.

 

• May 29, 1926 Abdoulaye Wade, former President of Senegal, was born in Kebemer, Senegal. Wade studied and taught law in France. He earned his Ph.D. in law and economics from the Sorbonne in 1970 and later became the dean of the law and economics faculty at the University of Dakar. In 1974, he founded the Senegalese Democratic Party and has led it since then. In 1978, he was elected to the National Assembly and served until 1980. He also held ministerial positions in government in the late 1980s and 1990s. Wade ran for President of Senegal four times before he was elected in 2000. In 2007, he was elected to a second term. In office, he has fought corruption and instituted free market reforms and literacy, public health, and anti-poverty measures. Wade was defeated in his bid for a third term in 2012.

 

• May 29, 1934 Eugene Antonio Marino, the first African American archbishop in the United States, was born in Biloxi, Mississippi. Marino earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Joseph’s Seminary in 1962 and was ordained a priest that same year. He earned his Master of Arts degree from Fordham University in 1967. Following his graduation, he was spiritual director at St. Joseph’s Seminary from 1968 to 1971 when he became vicar general of the Josephites. From 1974 to 1988, Marino was the auxiliary bishop for Washington, D.C. and in 1985 he served as secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the first African American to hold that position. On May 5, 1988, Marino was installed as the Archbishop of Atlanta, the first African American archbishop in the United States. Marino resigned his post in 1990 due to a sexual scandal, but retained the title of archbishop. He died November 12, 2000.

 

• May 29, 1944 Maurice Rupert Bishop, former Prime Minister of Grenada, was born on the island of Aruba, but raised in Grenada. Bishop earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Presentation College and was educated at the London School of Economics. After returning to Grenada in 1973, he was elected head of the Marxist New Jewel Movement political party. Bishop was elected to Parliament and for several years held the position of leader of the opposition in the Grenadian House of Representatives. In 1979, the ruling party was deposed and Bishop was declared Prime Minister of Grenada. In 1983, Bishop was deposed and placed under house arrest. On October 19, 1983, Bishop and seven others, including cabinet ministers and his mistress, were executed by firing squad. In May, 2009, the Grenada airport was renamed Maurice Bishop International Airport in his honor. Bishop’s speeches have been published in “Forward Ever!: Three Years of the Grenadian Revoulution” (1982) and “In Nobody’s Backyard: Maurice Bishop’s Speeches: 1979-1983: A Memorial Volume” (1984).

 

• May 29, 1973 Thomas J. Bradley became the first African American Mayor of Los Angeles, California. Bradley was born December 29, 1917 in Calvert, Texas, but grew up in Los Angeles. In 1940, he became a member of the Los Angeles Police Department and rose to the rank of lieutenant, the highest ranking African American at that time. In 1956, he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from Southwestern University School of Law. Bradley was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1963 and served until 1972 before being elected mayor. He served five terms as mayor, making his the longest tenure of any mayor in the city’s history. In 1982, Bradley ran for Governor of California and all the polls had him ahead, but he narrowly lost the election. This gave rise to the term “the Bradley effect” which refers to the tendency of voters to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a black candidate, but then actually vote for the White candidate. After the election, Bradley practiced law with a focus on international trade issues. Bradley was the recipient of the NAACP Spingarn Medal and he died September 29, 1998.

 

• May 29, 2005 Hamilton Naki, South African surgical assistant and teacher, died. Naki was born June 26, 1926 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and was educated up to the age of 14. While working as a gardener at the University of Cape Town, Naki was selected to work in the clinical laboratory to look after animals and perform other basic duties. Over time, Naki became one of four technicians in the research laboratory at the medical school. Despite being listed on the hospital records as a gardener, he was paid the salary of a senior lab technician, the highest pay for someone without a diploma. In the late 1950s, Naki began working with Chirstiaan Barnard while he was developing open heart surgical techniques. In an interview, Barnard called Naki “one of the great researchers of all time in the field of heart transplants” and “Naki was a better craftsman than me, especially when it came to stitching.” Naki went on to train students and professors on transplant techniques. Naki retired in 1991 on a gardener’s pension. In 2002, he received the National Order of Mapungubwe in Bronze and in 2003 he received an honorary degree in medicine from the University of Cape Town. The documentary “Hidden Heart-The Story of Christian Barnard and Hamilton Naki” was produced in 2008.

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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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