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Today in Black History, 7/7/2012

• July 7, 1851 Charles Albert Tindley, gospel music composer and Methodist minister, was born in Berlin, Maryland. At birth, Tindley’s father was enslaved, but his mother was free, therefore Tindley was considered free. Tindley was primarily self-educated, but did attend night courses and took correspondence courses at the Boston University School of Theology, eventually earning a doctorate while working as a church janitor. Tindley became the pastor of that church, Calvery Methodist Episcopal Church, which under his leadership grew from 130 to a multiracial congregation of 12,500. After serving the congregation for over 30 years, the church was renamed Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in 1924. Tindley was also a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and his composition “I’ll Overcome Someday” (1901) is considered by many to be the basis for the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Tindley composed more than 60 other hymns, including “Stand by Me” (1905), “Nothing Between” (1905), “Some Day” (1906), and “Leave It There” (1916). Tindley was the first hymn writer to have a hymn copyrighted and in 1916 he published a collection of hymns titled “New Songs of Paradise.” Tindley died July 26, 1933 and was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1993.


• July 7, 1906 Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Mobile, Alabama. At the age of 12, Paige was committed to the Industrial School for Negro Children where he developed his pitching skills. In 1926, he was signed by the Chattanooga White Sox of the Negro leagues. In addition to the Negro leagues, Paige pitched in Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. During that time, he pitched against many white major league stars, including hall of famers Dizzy Dean, who called him “the pitcher with the greatest stuff I ever saw,” and Joe DiMaggio, who said that he was the best pitcher he had ever faced. During World War II, when many of the best major league players were in the service, Paige was the highest paid athlete in the world. In 1948, at the age of 42, Paige became the oldest player ever to debut in the major leagues where he pitched until 1953. On September 25, 1965, at the age of 59, he pitched three innings of shutout baseball against the Boston Red Sox. Paige finally quit pitching in 1967. Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the first player from the Negro leagues to be inducted. In 1981, a made-for-television movie, “Don’t Look Back,” of his life was aired. Paige died June 8, 1982. In 2009, his biography, “The Life and Times of an American Legend,” was published and in 2006 a statue of Paige was unveiled in Cooperstown, New York commemorating the contributions of the Negro leagues to baseball. A biography, “If You Were Only White,” was published in 2012.


• July 7, 1913 Joseph William “Pinetop” Perkins, blues musician, was born in Belzoni, Mississippi. In the 1950s, Perkins began touring with Earl Hooker. Perkins then relocated to Illinois and left music until Hooker convinced him to record again in 1968. In 1969, Perkins joined the Muddy Waters band and played with them for more than a decade. After leaving Waters’ band, Perkins played with various other musicians through the 1980s. In 1988, his first recording as leader, “After Hours,” was released. In 2005, Perkins received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2008 he won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas.” Perkins also won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Joined at the Hip: Pinetop Perkins & Willie “Big Eyes” Smith,” making him the oldest recipient of a Grammy Award. Perkins died March 21, 2011.


• July 7, 1915 Margaret Abigail Walker, poet and writer, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Walker earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University in 1935 and began working with the Federal Writers’ Project. In 1940, she earned her Master of Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa and in 1965 she returned to that school to earn her Ph.D. In 1942, she published her most popular poem, “For My People,” which won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. Walker served as a literature professor at what is now Jackson State University from 1949 to 1979. In 1966, her novel “Jubilee” was published to critical acclaim. In 1968, Walker founded the Institute for the Study of History, Life, and Culture of Black People, which was renamed the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center in her honor, at Jackson State. Walker died November 30, 1998.


• July 7, 1920 William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr., the second African American to serve in a United States presidential cabinet, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Coleman earned his Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 1941 and his Bachelor of Laws degree magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1946. He began his legal career in 1947 and on September 1, 1948 became the first African American to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk. Coleman was one of the lead strategists and co-author of the legal brief in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Coleman earned his Doctor of Laws degree from Bates College in 1975 and that same year was appointed Secretary of Transportation by President Gerald Ford. Coleman served in that capacity for a little less than two years before returning to private law practice. In 1995, Coleman was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President William Clinton. In 2004, he was appointed to the United States Court of Military Commission Review.


• July 7, 1921 Ezzard Mack Charles, hall of fame boxer, was born in Lawrence, Georgia, but grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. As an amateur, Charles was undefeated and in 1939 won the national AAU Middleweight Boxing Championship. Charles turned professional in 1940, but his career was interrupted while he served in the United States military during World War II. Charles won theWorld Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1950. He lost the title in 1951 and retired in 1959 with a professional record of 96 wins, 25 losses, and 1 draw. Ring magazine named Charles Fighter of the Year in 1949 and 1950. Charles died May 28, 1975 and in 1976 Cincinnati honored him by naming a street Ezzard Charles Drive. In 1990, he was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2009, Boxing Magazine designated Charles the greatest light heavyweight boxer of all time.


• July 7, 1944 Emanuel Steward, hall of fame boxing trainer, was born in Bottom Creek, West Virginia, but raised in Detroit, Michigan. As an amateur boxer, Steward compiled a record of 94 wins and 3 losses, including a 1963 National Golden Gloves title. In 1971, he began training amateur boxers and that year his boxers won seven championships at the Detroit Golden Gloves Tournament. By the mid-1970s, Steward was training and managing professional boxers and in 1980 the first of his boxers won a world championship. World champions trained by Steward include Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, Milton McCrory, Michael Moorer, and many others. He has been named Trainer of the Year or Manager of the Year several times by the Boxing Writers Association of America. In 1996, Steward was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Steward continues to train fighters, including current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.


• July 7, 1950 Theodore “Fats” Navarro, jazz trumpeter, died. Navarro was born September 24, 1923 in Key West, Florida. He began playing the piano at the age of six and the trumpet at 13. In 1946, Navarro moved to New York City and his career took off. He played in the bands of Billy Eckstine, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton. He also recorded with Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, and Kenny Clarke. Navarro was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1982. “The Music and Life of Theodore “Fats” Navarro: Infatuation” was published in 2009.


• July 7, 1950 The Group Areas Act (Act No. 41) was enacted by the apartheid government of South Africa. The act assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas of the country. The act led to many non-whites being forcibly removed for living in the “wrong” area and it caused many to commute long distances from their homes to work. The act was repealed on June 30, 1991 by the Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act.


• July 7, 1960 Ralph Lee Sampson, Jr., hall of fame basketball player, was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Coming out of high school, Sampson was probably the most heavily recruited basketball prospect of his generation. At the University of Virginia, he earned three Naismith Awards as the National Player of the Year, only the second athlete to accomplish that, and led them to the 1980 National Invitation Tournament Championship. Sampson was selected by the Houston Rockets in the 1983 NBA Draft and that year won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Over his 10 season professional career, Sampson was a four-time All-Star. Sampson retired after the 1992 season. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. Sampson is currently founder and chairman of Winner’s Circle Enterprises and the Winner’s Circle Foundation which works to ensure quality education for children across the country.


• July 7, 1972 Lisa Deshaun Leslie, the first player to dunk in a WNBA basketball game, was born in Gardena, California. By her senior year in high school, Leslie was considered the top female basketball player in the country. While playing for the University of Southern California, Leslie was named the National Freshman of the Year in 1991 and the National Player of the Year in 1994. She was also a 3-time All-American selection. She graduated from USC with a bachelor’s degree in communications and later earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix. Leslie was selected in the 1997 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She played all of her 11 season professional career with the Sparks and was an eight-time All-Star, three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. In 2001, Leslie was named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation. In 2003, Leslie became the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game. Leslie also participated on four Gold medal winning women’s basketball Olympic teams, only the second female basketball player to earn that many gold medals. Leslie is currently a model and an aspiring actress.


• July 7, 1975 Frederick McDonald Massiah, engineer and businessman, died. Massiah was born December 12, 1886 in Christ Church, Barbados. He immigrated to the United States in 1909 and earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Drexel Institute of Technology. By the early 1920s, he had established his own construction business and began pioneering in reinforced concrete construction. He gained national acclaim in 1925 with the construction of the elliptical concrete dome on the Ascension of Our Lord Roman Catholic church, the first structure of its kind in the United States, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Massiah proceeded to have a 45 year business career that included the construction of the William Donner X-Ray laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, the Trenton, New Jersey Sewage Disposal plant, the Capehart Housing project in Maryland, and the Morton Housing Development in Philadelphia.


• July 7, 1992 Juanita Jackson Mitchell, the first African American woman to practice law in Maryland, died. Mitchell was born January 2, 1913 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree cum laude in education and her Master of Arts degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1931 and 1935, respectively. From 1935 to 1938, she served as national youth director for the NAACP. In 1950, Mitchell became the first African American woman to graduate from the University of Maryland School of Law and the first admitted to the Maryland bar. Mitchell served as president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP and filed many cases to desegregate aspects of life, including restaurants, parks, and swimming pools. She was named to the White House Conference on Women and Civil Rights by President John F. Kennedy and in 1966 was named to the White House Conference to Fulfill These Rights by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1987, Mitchell was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame. Annually, the NAACP awards the Juanita Jackson Mitchell Legal Activism Award to a unit for exemplary redress committee activities.

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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.