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Today in Black History, 6/5/2012

• June 5, 1893 Mary Ann Camberton Shadd, educator and publisher, died. Shadd was born October 9, 1823 in Wilmington, Delaware. In 1840, she moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania and established a school for black children. When the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 threatened to return free northern blacks to bondage, Shadd moved to Windsor, Ontario where she founded a racially integrated school. In 1853, Shadd founded The Provincial Freeman newspaper which promoted temperance, moral reform, civil rights, and black self-help. Published until 1859, it was one of the longest published black newspapers before the Civil War. In 1861, Shadd published “Voice from Harper’s Ferry,” a tribute to John Brown’s unsuccessful raid. That same year, she returned to the United States and during the Civil War served as a recruiting officer to enlist black volunteers for the Union Army. After the war, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught school and attended Howard University Law School. In 1883 she graduated, becoming the second black woman to earn a law degree in the United States. She also joined the National Women’s Suffrage Association and became the first black woman to cast a vote in a national election. In 1976, Shadd’s former residence in Washington, D.C. was declared a National Historic Landmark. Her biographies include “Shadd: The Life and Times of Mary Shadd Cary” (1977) and “Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century” (1998).

 

• June 5, 1894 George Washington Murray of Sumter, South Carolina received patent numbers 520,887, 520,888, and 520,889 for a planter, cotton-chopper, and fertilizer distributer, respectively. The planter was designed to drop crop seeds at predetermined distances apart and covering the seeds after dropping. The cotton-chopper was a cheap and simple machine designed to chop rows of cotton. And the fertilizer distributer was a strong and durable machine able to evenly drill any fertilizing agent into the ground and then cover them. Murray later received patent number 644,032 on February 20, 1900 for a grain drill and patent number 887,495 on May 12, 1908 for a portable hoisting device. Murray was born enslaved on September 22, 1853 in Sumter County. After being freed, he attended the University of South Carolina for two years and taught school for 15 years. He served as chairman of the Sumter County Republican Party and was known as the “Republican Black Eagle.” From 1890 to 1892, Murray served as inspector of customs at the Port of Charleston. In 1893, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served until 1897. During his time in Congress, Murray fought for black rights, speaking in favor of retaining Reconstruction Period laws, and highlighting black achievement by reading into the congressional record a list of 92 patents granted to African Americans. Murray died April 21, 1926 and was the last black Republican to serve in Congress from South Carolina until 2010. His biography, “A Black Congressman in the Age of Jim Crow: South Carolina’s George Washington Murray,” was published in 2006.

 

• June 5, 1920 Marion Motley, hall of fame football player, was born in Leesburg, Georgia, but raised in Canton, Ohio. After playing college football at South Carolina State University and the University of Nevada, Motley joined the United States Navy and played for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station team. He started his professional football career in 1946 with the Cleveland Browns in the All-American Football Conference. Led by Motley, Cleveland won every championship in the four year existence of the AAFC. When the AAFC shut down in 1949, he was the league’s career rushing leader. The Browns joined the NFL in 1950 and Motley led the league in rushing that year. Motley retired in 1954 and wanted to coach, however due to his race he was not able to do that. Motley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968, the second African American to be inducted. Motley died June 27, 1999 and many people refer to him as “The Jackie Robinson of football.”

 

• June 5, 1940 The American Negro Theater was formed in Harlem, New York by Abram Hill and Frederick O’Neal. The theater produced 19 plays which were performed in the Schomburg Library. Their most successful production was “Anna Lucasta” which was performed on Broadway in 1944. In 1942, the theater started the Studio Theatre training program for beginning actors. Graduates of that program include Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. The theater closed in 1949.

 

• June 5, 1945 John Wesley Carlos, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Harlem, New York. After one year at East Texas State University, Carlos transferred to San Jose State University where he was a co-founder of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, an organization formed to boycott the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games to highlight human rights violations by the United States. The boycott did not occur and Carlos went on to win the Bronze medal in the 200-meter race. At the medal award ceremony, he and Tommie Smith raised their black-gloved fist in a black power salute. They also wore black socks and no shoes to represent African American poverty in the U.S. For these actions, they were suspended from the U.S. team, banned from the Olympic Village, and they and their families were subject to death threats. In 1969, Carlos led San Jose State to its first NCAA Track Championship. Following his track career, Carlos played professional football, but his career was cut short due to injuries. In 2003, Carlos was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame. In 2008, he and Smith received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPY Awards.

 

• June 5, 1950 The United States Supreme Court in the case of Henderson v. United States abolished segregation in railroad dining cars and in the case of McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents ruled that a public institution of higher learning could not provide different treatment to a student solely because of his/her race. In the Henderson case, the court did not rule on the “separate but equal” doctrine, but found that the railroad failed to provide Henderson with the same level of service provided to a white passenger with the same class of ticket. In the McLaurin case, they ruled that the University of Oklahoma providing him with separate facilities deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment rights of Equal Protection.

 

• June 5, 1952 Wendell Phillips Dabney, newspaper editor and author, died. Dabney was born November 4, 1865 in Richmond, Virginia. In his senior year in high school, he led a protest of the separation of blacks and whites for graduation. The successful protest resulted in the first integrated graduation at the school. Dabney spent 1883 at Oberlin College where he was first violinist at the Oberlin Opera House and a member of the Cademian Literary Club. From 1884 to 1890, Dabney taught at a Virginia elementary school. In 1894, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and in 1895 became Cincinnati’s first African American license clerk. From 1898 to 1923, he served as assistant, then head paymaster in the Cincinnati Department of Treasury. In 1907, Dabney founded The Union newspaper whose motto was “For no people can become great without being united, for in union there is strength.” Dabney edited the paper from its founding until his death and the paper was influential in shaping the political and social opinions of Cincinnati’s African American citizens. Dabney also served as the first president of the Cincinnati NAACP chapter when it was established in 1915. He complied and published “Cincinnati’s Colored Citizens” in 1926 and wrote “Maggie L. Walker: The Woman and Her Work” in 1927. In 1950, the National Convention of Negro Publishers honored Dabney as a pioneer and leader in African American journalism.

 

• June 5, 1969 Brian McKnight, singer, songwriter, arranger, and producer, was born in Buffalo, New York. McKnight’s musical career began in childhood and at 19 he signed his first recording deal. His debut album, “Brian McKnight,” was released in 1992 and it was followed by “I Remember You” (1995) and “Anytime” (1997), which sold over 2 million copies and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In 1999, he released “Back at One” which sold over 3 million copies and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best R&B Album. In total, McKnight has been nominated for 16 Grammy Awards. In 2007 he made his Broadway debut in “Chicago.”

 

• June 5, 1991 The Group Areas Act (Act No. 41) was repealed in South Africa. The act was created on April 27, 1950 by the apartheid government of South Africa. It assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas of the country. The act led to many non-whites being forcibly removed for living in the “wrong” area and it caused many to commute long distances from their homes to work.

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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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