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Today in Black History, 6/8/2012

• June 8, 1874 Virginia Estelle Randolph, educator and pioneer of vocational training, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Randolph began her career as a teacher when she opened the one room Mountain Road School in Henrico County, Virginia. In addition to academics, she taught her students woodworking, sewing, cooking, and gardening. In 1908, Randolph was named the United States’ first “Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher,” becoming the recipient of funding to maintain and assist rural schools for African Americans in the South. As the overseer of 23 elementary schools, Randolph developed the first in-service training program for black teachers. She also authored the “Henrico Plan” which became a reference book for southern schools receiving funding from the Jeanes Foundation. Randolph’s teaching philosophy and techniques were later adopted by Great Britain in their African colonies. Also in 1908, she founded the first Arbor Day Program in Virginia. She and her students planted 12 Sycamore trees. In 1976, the trees still standing were named the first notable trees in Virginia by the National Park Service. Randolph retired in 1949 and in 1954 the Virginia Randolph Foundation was formed to annually award scholarships to Henrico County high school students who will be attending college. Randolph died March 16, 1958 and in 1976 the Virginia Randolph Home Economics Cottage was named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. Virginia Randolph Community High School in Glen Allen, Virginia is named in her honor.

 

• June 8, 1877 Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, painter and sculptor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fuller’s career as an artist began when one of her high school projects was chosen to be included in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Based on that work, she won a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art. Fuller graduated with honors in 1898 and in 1899 traveled to Paris, France for additional training. She returned to Philadelphia in 1902 and became the first African American woman to receive a United States government commission when she was commissioned to create several dioramas depicting historical African American events for the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition in 1907. Fuller’s most famous work, “The Awakening of Ethiopia” (1910), is in the collection of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Fuller died March 18, 1968 and “An Independent Woman: The Life and Art of Meta Warrick Fuller (1877-1968)” was published in 1984. Fuller Middle School in Framingham, Massachusetts is named in honor of Fuller and her husband.

 

• June 8, 1912 Robert Penn, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Penn was born October 10, 1872 in City Point, Virginia. On July 20, 1898, he was serving as a fireman first class on the USS Iowa off the coast of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish – American War. His actions that day earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “Performing his duty at the risk of serious scalding at the time of the blowing out of the manhole gasket on board the vessel, Penn hauled the fire while standing on a board thrown across a coal bucket 1 foot above the boiling water which was still blowing from the boiler.” Not much else is known of Penn’s life.

 

• June 8, 1938 Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, historian, writer, and activist, died. Schomburg was born January 24, 1874 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. While he was in grade school, one of his teachers claimed that blacks had no history, heroes, or accomplishments. This inspired Schomburg to prove the teacher wrong. Schomburg was educated at St. Thomas College in the Virgin Islands where he studied Negro literature. He immigrated to New York City in 1891 and in 1896 began teaching Spanish. In 1911, Schomburg co-founded the Negro Society for Historical Research and he later became president of the American Negro Academy. In 1925, Schomburg published his widely read and influential essay “The Negro Digs Up His Past.” In 1928, the New York Public Library System purchased his collection of literature, art, and other materials and appointed him curator of the Schomburg Collection of Negro Literature and Art (later renamed the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). His biography, “Arthur Alfonso Schomburg: Black Bibliophile & Collector,” was published in 1989. Schomburg’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

 

• June 8, 1939 Herbert Allen Adderley, hall of fame football player, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In high school, Adderley played football, basketball, and baseball and was All-City in all three sports. He played college football at Michigan State University and in 1960 was named to the All-Big Ten Conference team. Adderley was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1961 NFL Draft and moved from an offensive running back to a defensive back. Over his 12 season professional career, he was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He is also one of only three players in professional football history to play on six world championship teams. After retiring in 1973, Adderley broadcast games and served as an assistant coach at Temple University. In 1980, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

• June 8, 1943 William D. “Willie” Davenport, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Troy, Alabama. After graduating from high school, Davenport joined the United States Army and became a member of the track team. Davenport competed in four Summer Olympic Games, winning a Gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games and a Bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. He also competed in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games as a runner for the U.S. bobsleigh team. Davenport subsequently returned to military duty and rose to the rank of colonel in the Army National Guard. He coached the All-Army men’s and women’s track teams to an unprecedented four undefeated seasons from 1993 to 1996. Davenport was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1982 and died June 17, 2002.

 

• June 8, 1962 William Stanley Braithwaite, poet, anthologist, and educator, died. Braithwaite was born December 6, 1878 in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of 15, he apprenticed to a typesetter at a Boston publisher and discovered an affinity for lyric poetry and began to write poems. Over his career, he published three volumes of poetry, “Lyrics of Life and Love” (1904), “The House of Falling Leaves” (1908), and “Selected Poems” (1948). Between 1906 and 1931, Braithwaite also contributed book reviews, essays, and articles to numerous periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly magazine, The Crisis magazine, and the New York Times. In 1918, Braithwaite was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. From 1935 to 1945, he was professor of creative writing at Atlanta University.

 

• June 8, 1977 Kanye Omari West, rapper and record producer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia. West attended the American Academy of Art and Chicago State University but dropped out to focus on his music career. He first gained recognition for producing hit singles for artists such as Jay-Z, Common, Alicia Keys, and John Legend. In 2004, West released his debut album, “The College Dropout,” which contained the singles “Through the Wire” and “Jesus Walks” and went triple platinum. His second album, “Late Registration,” was released in 2005 and earned eight Grammy nominations and also went triple platinum. His other albums are “Graduation” (2007) and “808s & Heartbreak” (2008). West has been nominated for 43 Grammy Awards and won 18, including Best Rap Album in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2012. West also runs his own record label, GOOD Music. In 2010, West was voted MTV Man of the Year and included on Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Forbes magazine ranked him 76 on its list of the most powerful people in the entertainment business. In 2003, West founded the Kanye West Foundation in Chicago, Illinois to focus on helping Latino and African American children stay in school. He also has participated in many fundraisers and benefit concerts.

 

• June 8, 1982 Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, hall of fame baseball player, died. Paige was born July 7, 1906 in Mobile, Alabama. At the age of 12, he was committed to the Industrial School for Negro Children where he developed his pitching skills. In 1926, Paige was signed by the Chattanooga White Sox of the Negro leagues. In addition to the Negro leagues, Paige pitched in Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. During that time, he pitched against many white major league stars, including Hall of Famers Dizzy Dean, who called him “the pitcher with the greatest stuff I ever saw,” and Joe DiMaggio, who said that Paige was the best pitcher he had ever faced. During World War II, when many of the best major league players were in the service, Paige was the highest paid athlete in the world. In 1948 at the age of 42, Paige became the oldest player ever to debut in the major leagues, where he pitched until 1953. On September 25, 1965 at the age of 59, Paige pitched 3 innings of shutout baseball against the Boston Red Sox. Paige finally quit pitching in 1967. Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the first player from the Negro leagues to be inducted. In 1981, a made-for-television movie, “Don’t Look Back,” of his life was aired and in 2009 his biography, “The Life and Times of an American Legend,” was published. In 2006, a statue of Paige was unveiled in Cooperstown, New York commemorating the contributions of the Negro leagues to baseball. A biography, “If You Were Only White,” was published in 2012.

 

• June 8, 2009 Albert-Bernard “Omar” Bongo, second President of the Gabonese Republic, died. Bongo was born December 30, 1935 in southeastern Gabon. He served in the Gabonese Air Force from 1958 to 1960. He began his political career after the nation had gained its independence in 1960. After being promoted to several key positions, Bongo was elevated to vice president in 1966 and succeeded Leon M’ba as president upon his death in 1967. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February, 2008, Bongo became the world’s longest serving non-monarch ruler. Omar Bongo University in Libreville is named in his honor.

 

• June 8, 2011 Clara Shepard Luper, schoolteacher and civil rights leader, died. Luper was born May 3, 1923 in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma but raised in Hoffman, Oklahoma. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and history from Langston University in 1944 and her Master of Arts degree in history education from the University of Oklahoma in 1951. In 1957, she became the advisor for the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council and in 1958 led them in a successful sit-in at Katz drugstore. As a result, Katz corporate management desegregated its lunch counters in three states. From 1958 to 1964, Luper led the campaigns to gain equal banking rights, employment opportunities, open housing, and voting rights. In 1968, she was one of a few African American teachers hired to teach at a previously segregated Oklahoma City high school as part of a court ordered desegregation plan. Luper authored “Behold the Walls,” an account of the campaign for civil rights in Oklahoma City, in 1979. The Clara Luper Corridor, a two mile streetscape connecting the Oklahoma State Capitol complex with the historically African American area of Northeast Oklahoma City, is named in her honor. Oklahoma City University annually awards the Clara Luper Scholarship to minority students from underserved high schools or households with lower income.

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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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