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Today in Black History, 7/20/2012

• July 20, 1925 Frantz Fanon, psychiatrist, revolutionary, and writer, was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Fanon served in the French army during World War II. His experiences on Martinique and his service in the army fueled his first book, “Black Skin, White Mask” (1952), which analyzed the effects of colonial subjugation on humanity. In 1961, he wrote “The Wretched of the Earth” which discussed the effects on Algerians of torture by the French forces during the Algerian revolution. Fanon died December 6, 1961 and many of his shorter writings were posthumously published in the book “Toward the African Revolution.” Several biographies have been published on Fanon, including “Fanon” (1971) and “Frantz Fanon: A Life” (2001).

• July 20, 1938 Ronald G. Walters, scholar, author, and political consultant, was born in Wichita, Kansas. In 1958, as president of the Wichita NAACP Youth Council, Walters organized the Dockum Drug Store sit-in which led to the desegregation of drugstores in Wichita. Walters earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in history and government from Fisk University in 1963 and his Master of Arts in African studies and Ph.D. in international studies from American University in 1966 and 1971, respectively. Walters served as professor and chair of the political science department at Howard University for 25 years and for 13 years until his retirement in 2009 was director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. Walters also served as campaign manager for Jesse Jackson during his 1984 and 1988 presidential bids. Walters published a number of books, including “Black Presidential Politics in America: A Strategic Approach” (1988) which won the Bunche Prize. Other books by Walters include “Standing Up in America’s Heartlands: Sitting in Before Greensboro” (1993) and “White Nationalism, Black Interests: Conservative Public Policy and the Black Community” (2003). Walters died September 10, 2010.

• July 20, 1944 Melvin Joe Daniels, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Daniels played college basketball at the University of New Mexico where he was an All-American in 1967. He was selected in the 1967 American Basketball Association Draft by the Minnesota Muskies and was the ABA Rookie of the Year in his first season. The next year, Daniels was traded to the Indiana Pacers where he was a seven-time All-Star, ABA Most Valuable Player in 1969 and 1971, and led them to three ABA Championships. Daniels retired in 1977 and joined the coaching staff at Indiana State University. From 1986 to 2009, he was Director of Player Personnel for the Pacers. Daniels’ jersey number 34 was retired by the Pacers and in 2012 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

• July 20, 1964 Violet Palmer, the first woman to officiate a National Basketball Association game, was born in Compton, California. Palmer played college basketball at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and led them to NCAA Division II Championships in 1985 and 1986. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 1987, she worked as a recreation director for the City of Los Angeles. While continuing at that job, she began officiating basketball games, working her way through the ranks of high school, college, and the NCAA Women’s Final Four. On October 31, 1997, Palmer became the first woman to officiate an NBA basketball game and on April 25, 2006 she became the first woman to officiate an NBA playoff game. In 2001, Palmer established Violet Palmer’s Official Camp to train young people in refereeing. In 2009, Palmer became coordinator of women’s basketball officials for the West Coast Conference while continuing to referee in the NBA.

• July 20, 1967 The first National Conference on Black Power convened in Newark, New Jersey with Nathan Wright, Jr. as the chairman. More than 1,000 delegates representing 286 organizations and institutions from 126 cities gathered to discuss the most pressing African American issues of the day. A Black Power Manifesto was officially adopted which condemned “neo-colonialist control” of black populations worldwide and called for the circulation of a “philosophy of Blackness” that would unite and direct the oppressed in common cause.

• July 20, 1982 Okot p’Bitek, internationally recognized Ugandan poet, died. Okot was born June 7, 1931 in Gulu, Uganda. He was educated at King’s College, Budo and later studied education at the University of Bristol and then law at the University of Wales. In 1963, he earned his Bachelor of Letters degree in social anthropology at the University of Oxford. In 1953, he wrote the novel “Lak Tar Miyo Kinyero Wi Lobo” which was later translated into English as “White Teeth.” In 1966, he achieved wide international recognition with the publication of his long poem “Song of Lawino: A Lament.” The poem has been described as one of the most important works of African literature. Other works by Okot include “Song of Ocol” (1970), “Horn of My Love” (1974), and “Acholi Proverbs” (1985). The East African Song School or Okot School poetry is an academic identification of dramatic verse monologue rooted in traditional song and phraseology. A number of books have been published about Okot and his poetry, including “The Poetry of Okot p’Bitek” (1976) and “Tradition as Philosophy: Okot p’Bitek’s Legacy for African Philosophy” (2002).

• July 20, 1994 Everett Frederic Morrow, businessman and the first African American to hold an executive position at the White House, died. Morrow was born April 20, 1906 in Hackensack, New Jersey. Morrow graduated from Bowdoin College in 1930 and was employed by the National Urban League and the NAACP as field secretary before entering the United States Army in 1942 during World War II. Morrow graduated from Officers Candidate School in 1943 and was discharged in 1946 as a major of artillery. In 1948, he earned his Juris Doctorate degree from Rutgers University. In 1955, he joined President Dwight Eisenhower’s staff as administrative officer for special projects where he served until 1961. In 1963, he published his account of the experience in his autobiography “Black Man in the White House.” In 1964, Morrow became the first black corporate executive at Bank of America.

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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.