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Today in Black History, 8/10/2012

• August 10, 1858 Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, author, educator, and scholar, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the age of nine, Cooper received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a school for training teachers to educate formerly enslaved blacks and their families. Cooper earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and her Master of Arts degree in mathematics in 1887 from Oberlin College. In 1892, Cooper published her first book, “A Voice from the South: By a Woman from the South,” which is widely considered the first articulation of black feminism. Its central thesis was that the educational, moral, and spiritual progress of black women would improve the general standing of the entire African American community and that it was the duty of educated and successful black women to support their underprivileged peers in achieving their goals. In 1914, Cooper began courses for her doctorial degree at Columbia University, but due to family obligations was forced to stop. In 1924, at the age of 65, she earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne, the fourth black woman to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy degree. Cooper died February 27, 1964 and on pages 26 and 27 of every new United States passport there is the following quote from Cooper, “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.” In 2009, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor.

• August 10, 1880 Clarence Cameron White, violinist, educator, and composer, was born in Clarkville, Tennessee. White started studying violin at the age of eight and in 1896 entered the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where he was the only black student in the orchestra. Before graduating, he left Oberlin to accept a teaching position. From 1924 to 1930, White taught at Virginia State College and from 1932 to 1935 at the Hampton Institute. White studied in Paris and at the Julliard School of Music and arranged many black Spirituals for voice and violin, including “Forty Negro Spirituals” (1927) and “Traditional Negro Spirituals” (1940). The 1954 Benjamin Award was presented to White for “Elegy,” a composition for orchestra. He is credited with more than 100 compositions, including an opera, “Ouanga,” which was performed in 1956 at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. He also played at the White House for Presidents William McKinley and Franklin D. Roosevelt. His biography is titled “Music inside my Heart; Biography of Clarence Cameron White.” White died on June 30, 1960.

• August 10, 1905 Willie James Wells, hall of fame Negro League baseball player, was born in Austin, Texas. Wells made his professional baseball debut in 1923. Over his 18 season career, he had a batting average of .328 and was considered the best black shortstop of his day. After his playing days, Wells continued with the sport as manager of various Negro league and Canadian teams. Wells died January 22, 1989 and was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997. His biography, “Willie Wells: “El Diablo” of the Negro Leagues,” was published in 2007.

• August 10, 1910 Joe Gans, the first American-born black to win a world boxing championship, died. Gans was born Joseph Gant on November 25, 1874 in Baltimore, Maryland. He started boxing in 1891 in “battle royals.” These were matches where several young black men were blindfolded and put in a ring to fight until there was one winner. In 1902, Gans won the World Lightwight Boxing Championship and held the title until 1908. He retired in 1909 with a career record of 145 wins, 10 losses, and 16 draws. Gans was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 and his biography, “Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion,” was published in 2008.

• August 10, 1950 Patti Austin, R&B and jazz vocalist, was born in Harlem, New York. Austin made her debut at the Apollo Theater at the age of four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was five. Between 1969 and 1991, Austin had twenty songs on the R&B charts, including “Baby, Come To Me” (with James Ingram) (1982), “It’s Gonna Be Special” (1984), “Honey For The Bee” (1985), and “The Heat of Heat” (1986). Over her career, Austin has released more than 20 albums and been nominated for nine Grammy Awards. In 2008, she won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Avant Gershwin.” Austin released “Sound Advice” in 2011.

• August 10, 2007 Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler, former Tuskegee Airman, died. Bohler was born June 8, 1925 in Augusta, Georgia. He enlisted in the Army Air Force at the age of 17 and trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, earning his wings in 1944. Bohler remained with the air force until 1947, rising to the rank of second lieutenant. After leaving the military, Bohler graduated from Hampton University and moved to Tampa, Florida where he became Tampa’s first African American licensed electrician. In 1960, Bohler and his family were denied entry to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa and Bohler sued the city for discrimination. The suit resulted in a 1962 federal order requiring Tampa to integrate its public recreation facilities.

• August 10, 2008 Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr., hall of fame songwriter, musician, singer, and actor, died. Hayes was born August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. He began his career in the early 1960s as a session player, songwriter, and producer at Stax Records. Along with his partner David Porter, Hayes wrote a string of hits for the artists at Stax, including “Soul Man,” which has been recognized by the Grammy Hall of Fame as one of the most influential songs of the past 50 years. In recognition, Porter and Hayes were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. In the late 1960s, Hayes began recording and recorded a number of successful albums such as “Hot Buttered Soul” (1969) and “Black Moses” (1971). He also composed film scores for several motion pictures. His best known work, “Shaft,” earned Hayes the 1971 Academy Award for Best Original Song, the first Academy Award won by an African American in a non-acting category. Hayes also won the 1972 Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Arrangement and Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special for “Shaft” and the 1973 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance by an Arranger, Composer, Orchestra and/or Choral Leader for “Black Moses.” Hayes appeared in a number of movies, including “Escape from New York” (1981), “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993), and “Hustle and Flow” (2005).

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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.

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