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Today in Black History, 7/19/2012

• July 19, 1849 Joseph Lee, entrepreneur and inventor, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. As a boy, Lee began working at a bakery. He soon began preparing and serving food, eventually opening two successful restaurants. On August 7, 1894, Lee was granted patent number 524,042 for an improved dough-kneading machine for use in hotels. On June 4, 1895, he was granted patent number 540,553 for a machine for making bread crumbs. Lee sold the rights to his bread crumbling machine to the Royal Worchester Bread Crumb Company and they were soon in major restaurants around the world. For 17 years beginning in the late 1890s, Lee owned the Woodland Park Hotel in Newton, Massachusetts. In 1902, he opened the Lee Catering Company which served the wealthy population of Boston. At the same time, he also operated the Squantum Inn, a summer resort that specialized in seafood. Lee died in 1905.

• July 19, 1923 Dale Raymond Wright, award-winning and barrier-breaking journalist, was born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Wright was among the first group of African Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corps during World War II and he attained the rank of staff sergeant. After the war, he earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University and then graduated with honors from the Ohio State University Columbus School of Journalism in 1950. Wright integrated the newsroom of the now defunct New York World Telegram and Sun where he wrote a 10-part undercover investigative series about the conditions of migrant farmers that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He later turned those articles into a book, “They Harvest Despair: The Migrant Farm Worker,” which was published in 1965. He also served as editor of Jet and Ebony magazines. Wright’s awards include the Heywood Broun Memorial for most distinguished reporting in the United States and Canada, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial for best news writing in the U.S. on racial intolerance and bigotry, and the Gentry Award for Outstanding Achievement. For 20 years, Wright owned and operated Dale Wright and Associates, a public relations firm serving the needs of emerging and established New York City area black businesses. He also served as press secretary and public relations director to New York politicians, including Mayor Ed Koch, Senator Jacob Javits, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Wright died December 13, 2009.

• July 19, 1944 Will Marion Cook, violinist and composer, died. Cook was born January 27, 1869 in Washington, D.C. His musical talents were apparent at an early age and at 15 he was sent to the Oberlin Conservatory to study violin. From 1887 to1889, he studied at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik and in 1889 made his professional debut. In 1890, he became director of a chamber orchestra and composed “Scenes from the Opera of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” In 1898, Cook composed “Clorindy: or, The Origin of the Cakewalk,” the first all-black show to play in a prestigious Broadway house. Cook produced many successful musicals, including “Uncle Eph’s Christmas” (1901), “The Southerners” (1904), and “Swing Along” (1929). The Will Marion Cook House in New York City was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Cook’s biography, “Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook,” was published in 2008.

• July 19, 1964 Andre Action Diakite Jackson, the world’s first diamond manufacturer of African descent, was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Jackson earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Houston and his Masters of Business Administration and Ph.D. from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Jackson became the world’s first diamantaire of African descent in 1986, shortly after opening his diamond manufacturing plant in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1999, Jackson established the African Diamond Council, Africa’s official diamond governing body, and in 2006 he established the African Diamond Producers Association, an intergovernmental branch of the ADC. He currently serves as Chairman Emeritus of JEPI Corporation, Africa’s largest holding company, and Chairman of the ADC and ADPA.

• July 19, 1964 Teresa Edwards, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Cairo, Georgia. Edwards played high school basketball and in 1982 was the Georgia High School Player of the Year. She played college basketball at the University of Georgia where she was a two-time All-American. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1990, she played for nine seasons in Italy, Japan, Spain, and France. Edwards also became the first female basketball player to play in five Olympic Games, winning Gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and a Bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. She holds the distinction of being the youngest and oldest woman Gold medal winner in women’s basketball. In 1996, Edwards was named the Sportswoman of the Year in the team category by the Women’s Sports Foundation. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Also that year, she was named head coach and general manager of the Tulsa Shock in the WNBA. The United States Olympic Committee appointed Edwards chef de mission, the U.S. representative to the International Olympic Committee, for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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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.