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Today in Black History, 7/24/2012

• July 24, 1802 Alexander Dumas, playwright and novelist, was born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie in Picardy, France. Dumas’ paternal grandfather was from the colony now known as Haiti and his grandmother was an Afro-Caribbean Creole. In 1822, Dumas moved to Paris and began writing plays for the theater. His first two plays, “Henry III and His Court” (1829) and “Christine” (1830), were successful and brought him much acclaim. After writing more successful plays, Dumas turned to historical novels, including “The Three Musketeers” (1844), “Twenty Years After” (1845), and “The Count of Monte Cristo” (1846). Despite his success and aristocratic connections, his being of mixed-race affected him all his life. In response to a man who insulted him about his mixed-race background, Dumas stated, “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.” Also in 1843, he wrote the novel “Georges” that addressed some of the issues of race and colonialism. Dumas died December 5, 1870 and his stories have been translated into almost 100 languages and have inspired more than 200 motion pictures. A Paris Metro station was named in his honor in 1970. Biographies of Dumas include “The Incredible Marquis: Alexandre Dumas” (1929) and “Alexandre Dumas: A Biography and Study” (1929).

• July 24, 1807 Ira Frederick Aldridge, stage actor, was born in New York City. Aldridge was educated at the New York African Free School where he developed an interest in the theater. Although he began his acting career in the United States in the early 1820s, in 1826 Aldridge immigrated to England because of the persistent disparagement and harassment that black actors had to endure in the U.S. In England and on tours throughout Europe, Aldridge established himself in many major roles, including several written as white characters. Aldridge never returned to the U.S. and died August 7, 1867 in Poland where his grave is tended by the Society of Polish Artists of Film and Theatre. He received awards from many European heads of state, including the Prussian Gold Medal for Arts and Sciences, the Golden Cross of Leopold, and the Maltese Cross. Also, Aldridge is the only actor of African descent among the 33 actors of the English stage with bronze plaques at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. Aldridge’s biography, “Ira Aldridge: The Negro Tragedian,” was published in 1968. “Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius,” a collection of essays that examine his extraordinary achievements against all odds, was published in 2007.

• July 24, 1893 Charles Spurgeon Johnson, the first black president of Fisk University, was born in Bristol, Virginia. Johnson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Union University in 1916 and his Ph.D. in 1919 from the University of Chicago. After the Chicago race riot of 1919, Johnson did much of the research which showed how the riot had deep roots in denial of economic and social opportunity to African Americans. His subsequent book, “The Negro in Chicago” (1922), became the classic model for comprehensive commission reports. In the 1920s, Johnson moved to New York City to become research director for the National Urban League. In 1927, he returned to the South as head of sociology at Fisk University. In 1934, Johnson was elected the first black trustee of the Julius Rosenwald Fund and in 1937 he became the first black elected vice president of the American Sociological Society. In 1946, Johnson became president of Fisk University, a position he held until his death on October 27, 1956. Over his career, Johnson wrote 17 books, including “Shadow of the Plantation” (1934) and “Growing Up in the Black Belt: Negro Youth in the Rural South” (1940).

• July 24, 1914 Kenneth Bancroft Clark, social psychologist, was born in the Panama Canal Zone, but raised in Harlem, New York. Clark earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees from Howard University in 1935 and 1936, respectively. In 1940, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University. In 1942, he joined the faculty of City College of New York and in 1960 was made a full professor, the first black academic to be so honored in the history of the college. With his wife, Mamie Phipps Clark, Clark conducted research among children on the effects of segregated education. They are best known for their 1940s experiments using dolls to study children’s attitudes about race. Their work contributed to the 1954 United States Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling which determined that de jure racial segregation in public education was unconstitutional. Clark went on to become the most influential black social scientist of his generation. He received more than a dozen honorary degrees from some of the nation’s finest colleges and universities, including Columbia University, Princeton University, and John Hopkins University. In 1961, he received the NAACP Spingarn Medal for his contributions to promoting integration and better race relations. In 1966, he was appointed to the New York State Board of Regents, the first black to serve on that state’s highest education decision making body. After retiring from City College in 1975, Clark formed a successful consulting firm to help large corporations design and implement minority hiring programs. Clark died May 1, 2005. His writings include “Prejudice and Your Child” (1955), “Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power” (1966), and “Pathos of Power” (1974).

• July 24, 1921 Billy Taylor, jazz pianist, composer, and educator, was born in Greenville, North Carolina, but raised in Washington, D.C. Taylor earned his Bachelor of Science degree in music from Virginia State College in 1942 and later earned a master’s and Ph.D. in music education from the University of Massachusetts. Taylor began playing professionally in 1944 and performed with most of the jazz greats over his career, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. Taylor’s recordings as a leader include “Cross-Section” (1954), “You Tempt Me” (1985), and “Ten Fingers – One Voice” (1998). In 1989, he was a co-founder of The Jazz Foundation, formed to save the homes and lives of elderly jazz and blues musicians. Taylor was a Distinguished Professor of Music at East Carolina University and artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Among his many honors, Taylor received 23 honorary doctorial degrees, the 1983 Emmy Award for Outstanding Informational, Cultural or Historical Programming, and the 2001 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Jazz Living Legend Award. In 1992, Taylor was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President George H. W. Bush and in 1998 he was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor that the U.S. bestows on jazz artists, by the National Endowment for the Arts. Taylor died December 28, 2010.

• July 24, 1925 Adele Addison, lyric soprano, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Addison began studying voice as a teenager and won a scholarship to study at Westminster Choir College. Additional scholarships allowed her to pursue graduate studies at Princeton University. In 1952, Addison made her New York City recital debut. The New York Times wrote of her debut, “The recital season reached a high point last night when Adele Addison ……..made her debut in Town Hall.” In 1955, she made her New York City opera debut in “La Boheme.” Although she appeared in several more operas, Addison spent most of her career performing in recital and concert. She made numerous appearances with major orchestras, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra. Addison also taught voice for more than 35 years at several institutions, including the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music.

• July 24, 1929 Cornelius H. Charlton, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in East Gulf, West Virginia, but raised in the Bronx, New York. Charlton enlisted in the United States Army in 1946 and served with the troops occupying Germany after World War II. A career soldier, he was sent to Korea and initially assigned to an engineering group. He requested a transfer to an infantry unit and was assigned to Company C of the 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, the last all-black regiment. On June 2, 1951, near the village of Chipo-ri, Korea, his platoon came under heavy fire and his platoon leader was wounded. Sergeant Charlton took command, regrouped his men, and led an assault. Wounded by a grenade, he refused medical treatment and continued to lead the charge. He single-handedly attacked and disabled the last remaining enemy gun placement. While doing this, he suffered another grenade wound and died. For his actions, Charlton’s parents were presented the medal, America’s highest military decoration, on March 12, 1952. In 1958, trees were planted in a park in the Bronx in his honor, in 1993 an army barracks complex in South Korea was named in his honor, and in 1999 the USNS Charlton was christened in his honor.

• July 24, 1934 Willie D. Davis, hall of fame football player, was born in Lisbon, Louisiana. Davis played college football at Grambling State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1956. He earned his Master of Business Administration degree in 1968 from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Davis was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 1958 NFL Draft and over his 12 season professional career was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. In 1986, Davis was named the Walter Camp Man of the Year which is annually given to a player, coach or person close to the game of football who has attained success and is a leader in his chosen profession. In 1987, he received the Career Achievement Award from the NFL Alumni Association. In 1991, he established the Willie D. Davis Scholarship Fund which awards college scholarships to Milwaukee, Wisconsin area high school students. Since 1976, Davis has been president and CEO of All-Pro Broadcasting and a member or former member of the board of directors of Dow Chemical Corporation, Johnson Controls, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Sara Lee Corporation.

• July 24, 1939 Walter Jones Bellamy, hall of fame basketball player, was born in New Bern, North Carolina. Bellamy played college basketball at Indiana University and was named an All-American in 1960 and 1961. He also was a member of the Gold medal winning men’s basketball team at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. Bellamy was selected by the Chicago Packers (Baltimore Bullets) in the 1961 NBA Draft and the next year was named NBA Rookie of the Year. Over his 14 season professional career, Bellamy was a four-time NBA All-Star. Bellamy was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Bellamy is vice chairman of the College Park Business and Industrial Development Authority in College Park, Georgia.

• July 24, 1954 Mary Church Terrell, civil and suffrage rights activist, died. Terrell was born September 23, 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. Terrell earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and her Master of Arts degree in 1888 from Oberlin College, making her one of the first African American women to earn a college degree. She also served as editor of the Oberlin Review. After college, Terrell taught at a black secondary school and at Wilberforce College. In 1895, she was appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education where she served until 1906, the first black woman to hold such a position in the United States. In 1896, she was elected the first president of the newly formed National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. In 1904, she was invited to speak at the International Congress of Women in Berlin, Germany, the only black woman at the conference. In 1909, Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett were the only black women invited to attend the organizational meeting of the NAACP. In 1913, Terrell was one of the organizers of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and 26 years later wrote its creed, setting up a code of conduct for Negro women. Terrell’s autobiography, “A Colored Woman in a White World,” was published in 1940. The Mary Church Terrell House in Washington, D.C. was named a National Historic Landmark in 1975. Terrell was among 12 pioneers of civil rights commemorated by the United States Postal Service with a series of postage stamps in 2009. Terrell’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• July 24, 1963 Karl Anthony Malone, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Summerfield, Louisiana. Malone played college basketball at Louisiana Tech University where he earned the nickname “The Mailman” because he always delivered. Malone was selected by the Utah Jazz in the 1985 NBA Draft. Over his 19 season career, Malone was NBA Most Valuable Player in 1997 and 1999 and a 13-time All-Star. Malone was also a member of the Gold medal winning basketball teams at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Malone retired in 2004 and in 2006 the Jazz retired his jersey number 32 and a bronze statue of him was unveiled outside the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1996, Malone was voted one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players and in 2010 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Malone is director of basketball promotions at Louisiana Tech.

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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.