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Today in Black History, 7/27/2012

• July 27, 1872 Charles Veale, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Veale was born in 1838 in Portsmouth, Virginia. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and by September 29, 1864 was serving as a private in Company D of the 4th Regiment United States Colored Infantry. On that day, his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm near Richmond, Virginia. Veale’s actions during the battle earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. He was awarded the medal on April 6, 1865 and his citation reads, “seized the national colors after 2 color bearers had been shot down close to the enemy’s works, and bore them through the remainder of the battle.” Not much else is known of Veale’s life.

• July 27, 1880 Alexander P. Ashbourne received patent number 230,518 for a process for preparing coconut oil for medicinal and general toilet purposes. His process allowed the oil to remain sweet and fresh for many years. Previously, Ashbourne had received patent number 163,962 for a process for refining coconut oil on June 1, 1875, patent number 170,460 for an improved biscuit cutter on November 30, 1875, and patent number 194,287 for a process for treating coconut on August 21, 1877. Not much else is known of Ashbourne’s life except that he was a successful dry goods grocer.

• July 27, 1897 James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey, hall of fame Negro League baseball player and manager, was born in Eagle Pass, Texas. Mackey began playing professional baseball in 1918 and played until 1947. He was regarded as the premiere catcher in the Negro League in the late 1920s and early 1930s. By 1937, Mackey was managing the Baltimore Elite Giants where he mentored a teenaged Roy Campanella. Later he would work with young players such as Monte Irvin, Larry Doby and Don Newcombe. Makey retired from baseball in the 1950s and died September 22, 1965. In a 1952 Pittsburgh Courier poll, Mackey was voted the Negro leagues’ greatest catcher and in 2006 he was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

• July 27, 1919 The Chicago Race Riots, the worst of the approximately 25 riots during the Red Summer of 1919, began. The riot started with a white man throwing rocks at blacks in the water at a beach on the South Side which resulted in an African American’s death. Conflict escalated when police did not arrest the white man, but arrested an African American man instead. Objections by blacks were met with violence by whites. Over the next four days 38 people died, 23 African Americans and 15 whites, and 537 were injured, two-thirds African American. Approximately 1,000 residents, mostly African Americans, were left homeless after fires destroyed their homes. Several books have been published about the riot, including “Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919” (1996) and “City of Scoundrels: The Twelve Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago” (2012).

• July 27, 1929 Harvey Fuqua, hall of fame singer, songwriter, record producer, and executive, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1951, Fuqua formed a vocal group called The Crazy Sounds. Later they moved to Cleveland, Ohio and were renamed The Moonglows. The group recorded their first single in 1953 and their 1954 single “Sincerely” reached number one on the R&B charts. Fuqua left the group in 1958 and recorded a couple of duets with Etta James, “If I Can’t Have You” (1960) and “Spoonful” (1961). In 1961, Fuqua started his own record label with acts such as The Spinners and Junior Walker. Shortly afterwards, he joined Motown Records and brought The Spinners and Johnny Bristol with him. He was also responsible for bringing Tammi Terrell to the company and producing her duets with Marvin Gaye, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967) which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.” In 1982, Fuqua produced Marvin Gaye’s album “Midnight Love” which included the single “Sexual Healing.” In 1995, Fuqua and his wife founded The Foundation for the S. T. A. R. S. (Souls Taking Action Reaching Souls) to address the difficulties that plague underprivileged youth in the inner-cities of America, with the belief that every dream should at least have the opportunity to be realized. In 2000, Fuqua was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Moonglows. Fuqua died July 6, 2010.

• July 27, 1937 Woodie King, Jr., hall of fame producer, director, writer, and educator, was born in Mobile, Alabama, but raised in Detroit, Michigan. King became interested in acting while in his teens and graduated from the Will-O-Way School of Theater in 1961. In 1960, he founded Concept-East, a community-based black theater company where he served as director and manager until 1963. In 1964, King moved to New York City where in 1965 he was appointed cultural arts director of Mobilization for Youth, an anti-poverty program aimed at providing arts training for minority children. In 1970, he founded the New Federal Theater Company where he serves as artistic director. King has produced more than 160 plays and won the 1986 Audelco Award for Best Director for “Appear and Show Cause” and the 1993 Audelco Award for Best Director and Best Play of the Year for “Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil.” King has also taught at a number of institutions, including Yale University, North Carolina A&T, New York University, and Hunter College. In 1997, King received an Obie Award for Sustained Achievement and in 2000 Wayne State University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. King was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2011.

• July 27, 1959 Hugh Donell Green, former professional football player, was born in Natchez, Mississippi. Green had a stellar college football career at the University of Pittsburgh where he was an All-American in 1978, 1979, and 1980. In 1980, Green won every award except the Heisman Trophy for College Player of the Year, the most recognition a defensive specialist had ever attained. At halftime of his final home game, his number 99 jersey was retired by the university. Green was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1981 NFL Draft and over his 11 season professional career Green was a two-time All-Pro. Green retired after the 1991 season and in 1996 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He is now a businessman.

• July 27, 1984 Clarence LaVaughn “C.L.” Franklin, minister and civil rights activist, died. Franklin was born January 22, 1915 in Sunflower County, Mississippi. At the age of 16, Franklin became a preacher working the black preaching circuit before settling at churches in Memphis, Tennessee and later Buffalo, New York. In 1946, he became pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Franklin’s fame grew as he broadcast sermons via radio and preached throughout the country. He was also one of the first ministers to record his sermons. In the 1950s, Franklin became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, working to end discriminatory practices against black United Auto Workers and organizing the 1963 March for Civil Rights in Detroit. In 1979, Franklin was shot during an attempted robbery and remained in a coma for five years before his death. The recording of his sermon “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest” was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry in 2011 as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” “Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America” was published in 2005.

• July 27, 1999 Harry “Sweets” Edison, jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger, died. Edison was born October 10, 1915 in Columbus, Ohio. At the age of 12, he began playing the trumpet with local bands. In 1937, he moved to New York City and joined the Count Basie Orchestra where he came to prominence as a soloist. Edison stayed with Basie for 13 years before moving to the West Coast and becoming a studio musician. There, he recorded with such artists as Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. He also recorded a number of albums as leader, including “Sweets” (1956), “Jawbreakers” (1962), and “Edison’s Lights” (1976). Edison taught music seminars at Yale University and in 1992 was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor in jazz, by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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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.