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Today in Black History, 7/30/2012

• July 30, 1926 Betye Saar, artist and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, but raised in Pasadena, California. Saar earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in design from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1949. Most of her work is in the field of assemblage and consists of found objects arranged within boxes or windows. One of her better known pieces is “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima” which consists of a mammy doll carrying a broom in one hand and a shotgun in the other, placed in front of the syrup labels, inside of a box. In the early 1980s, Saar taught at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Otis Art Institute. Saar has had over 25 solo exhibitions and her work is in numerous museums, including the High Museum of Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Detroit Institute of Art. She has received honorary doctorate degrees from the California Institute of the Arts, the Massachusetts College of Art, and the Otis College of Art and Design.

• July 30, 1936 George “Buddy” Guy, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, was born in Lettsworth, Louisiana. In the early 1950s, Guy began performing with bands in Baton Rouge and in 1957 moved to Chicago, Illinois. Guy’s career took off during the blues revival period of the late 1980s and early 1990s with albums such as “Breaking Out” (1988) and “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” (1991). Guy is considered an important exponent of “Chicago blues” and has been called the bridge between the blues and rock and Roll. He was an inspiration to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many other guitarists. Guy has won five Grammy Awards for contemporary and traditional forms of blues music, 23 W. C. Handy Awards, more than any other artist, and Billboard magazine’s The Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement. In 2003, he was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President George W. Bush. Guy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

• July 30, 1961 Laurence John Fishburne, III, actor, playwright, director and producer, was born in Augusta, Georgia. Fishburne started acting at the age of 12 in the television soap opera “One Life to Live.” In 1992, he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Featured Role for his stage performance in “Two Trains Running” and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in the opening episode of the television series “TriBeCa.” He is best known for his role in the “Matrix” trilogy (1999 and 2003) and his portrayal of Ike Turner in “What’s Love Got to do With It” (1993), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Other films in which he has starred include “School Daze” (1988), “Boyz n the Hood” (1991), and “Akeelah and the Bee” (2006). In 2008, Fishburne returned to the Broadway stage in the one-person production of “Thurgood,” for which he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show. From 2008 to 2011, he starred in the television crime drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

• July 30, 1970 Louis E. Lomax, author and the first African American television journalist, died in a car accident when the brakes failed on his car near Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Lomax was born August 16, 1922 in Valdosta, Georgia. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Paine College in 1942, his Master of Arts degree from American University in 1944, and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1947. He began his journalism career at the Afro-American and the Chicago Defender newspapers. In 1958, he became the first black television journalist when he joined WNTA-TV in New York. In 1959 Lomax and his colleague, Mike Wallace (60 Minutes), produced “The Hate That Hate Produced,” a five-part documentary on the Nation of Islam. At the time of his death, Lomax was working on a documentary concerning the role of the FBI in the death of Malcolm X and he had a 141 page FBI file. Lomax authored five books, including “The Reluctant African” (1960) and “To Kill a Black Man” (1968).

• July 30, 2005 John Garang de Mabior, Sudanese politician and rebel leader, died in a helicopter crash. Garang was born June 23, 1945 in Bor, Sudan. In 1962, he joined the first Sudanese civil war, but because he was so young, the leaders encouraged him to pursue an education. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Grinnell College in Iowa. Garang then studied East African agricultural economics as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow at the University of Dars es Salaam in Tanzania. After the first Sudanese civil war ended in 1972, Garang spent the next 11 years as a career soldier and rose to the rank of colonel. During this period, he also earned his master’s degree in agricultural economics and his Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University. From 1983 to 2005, Garang led the Sudan People’s Liberation Army during the second Sudanese civil war and following the peace agreement served as First Vice President of Sudan, a position he held until his death.

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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.