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Today in Black History, 8/17/2012

• August 17, 1849 Archibald Henry Grimke, lawyer, journalist, diplomat, and community leader, was born enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina. Grimke and his family were freed by their owner at his death. Grimke went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, and his Master of Arts degree from Lincoln University in 1870 and 1872, respectively. He earned his law degree from Harvard University in 1874 and did graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary before becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. Grimke served as the American Consul to the Dominican Republic from 1894 to 1898. He served as president of the American Negro Academy from 1903 to 1916 and was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. Throughout this period, Grimke published articles and pamphlets concerning black life and history. In 1916, he testified against segregation before the House Committee on Reform in the Civil Service. In 1919, Grimke was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. Grimke died February 25, 1930. His biography, “Archibald Grimke: Portrait of a Black Independent,” was published in 1993.

• August 17, 1887 Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., publisher, entrepreneur, orator, and Black Nationalist, was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. In 1914, Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association “to unite all people of African ancestry of the world to one great body to establish a country and absolute government of their own.” Garvey moved to New York City in 1916 and founded the Negro World newspaper. In June, 1923, Garvey was unjustly convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to five years in prison. That sentence was commuted by President Calvin Coolidge and Garvey was released in November, 1927 and deported to Jamaica. Garvey died June 10, 1940 and is interred at a shrine in National Heroes Park in Jamaica. There are memorials to Garvey around the world, including statues, streets and schools named after him in Jamaica, Trinidad, the United States, Canada, Africa, and the United Kingdom. A number of books have been published about Garvey and his movement, including “Black Power and the Garvey Movement” (1971), “Marcus Garvey: Anti-Colonial Champion” (1988), and “Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey and his Dream of Mother Africa” (2008). Garvey’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• August 17, 1939 Luther Allison, hall of fame blues guitarist, was born in Widener, Arkansas, but raised in Chicago, Illinois. Allison taught himself to play the guitar. During the 1950s and early 1960s, he worked the Chicago club circuit. He released his debut album, “Love Me Mama,” in 1968. In 1972, Allison was signed by Motown Records, the first and one of the few blues artists to sign with Motown. By the mid-1970s, he began touring Europe and in 1977 moved to France. In 1994, Allison returned to the United States and released the album “Soul Fixin’ Man,” which won four W. C. Handy Awards. He also released the album “Reckless” just before his death on August 12, 1997. Allison was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1998.

• August 17, 1946 Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning, two-time Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, was born in San Fernando, Trinidad. Manning earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of the West Indies in 1969. After graduation, he returned to Trinidad to work as a geologist for Texaco. In 1971, he was elected to Parliament where he served until 1978. From 1981 to 1986, Manning served as Minister of Energy and Resources. In 1991, Manning was elected Prime Minister and served until 1995 and in 2001 he was elected Prime Minister for a second time and served until 2010 when he was defeated.

• August 17, 1960 Gabon gained its independence from France. Gabon is located in west central Africa and is bordered by Equatorial Guinea to the northwest, Cameroon to the north, the Republic of the Congo to the east and south, and the Gulf of Guinea to the west. The country is approximately 103,000 square miles in area and has a population of approximately 1.45 million people. The majority of the people practice Christianity and the official language is French.

• August 17, 1973 Paul Williams, singer, choreographer, and one of the founding members of The Temptations, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Williams was born July 2, 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama. As teenagers, Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and two other friends formed a singing group called The Cavaliers. In 1957, Williams, Kendricks, and one other member moved to Detroit and changed their name to The Primes. Although they never recorded, they were successful performers and launched a female group called The Primettes who later became The Supremes. In 1960, The Primes disbanded and Williams and Kendricks joined The Elgins who in 1961 signed with Motown Records and changed their name to The Temptations. Williams was the original lead singer in the group, singing lead on such hits as “I Want a Love I Can See” (1963) and “Don’t Look Back” (1965). He also was the group’s original choreographer, devising routines for his group and The Supremes. In 1971, Williams was forced to leave the group due to health problems. As a member of The Temptations, Williams was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.

• August 17, 1990 Pearl Mae Bailey, jazz vocalist and actress, died. Bailey was born March 29, 1918 in Southampton County, Virginia. She made her stage debut at 15 when she won an amateur contest in Philadelphia. In 1941, during World War II, Bailey toured the country with the USO, singing and dancing for American troops. In 1946, she made her Broadway debut in “St. Louis Woman.” In 1968, she received a Special Tony Award for the title role in the all-black production of “Hello, Dolly!” Bailey also appeared in numerous feature films, including “Carmen Jones” (1954), “Porgy and Bess” (1959), and “Norman, Is That You” (1976). Bailey earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgetown University in 1985. In 1986, she won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in Children’s Programming for her performance in “Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.” Bailey published her autobiography, “The Raw Pearl,” in1968. She also published “Talking to Myself” in 1971 and “Between You and Me” in 1989. In 1975, she was named special advisor to the United States Mission of the United Nations General Assembly. Bailey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Ronald Reagan in 1988.

• August 17, 1993 Robert Clyve Maynard, journalist and the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper, died. Maynard was born June 17, 1937 in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 16, he dropped out of school to take a job as a reporter for the New York Age. In 1961, he began reporting for the York Gazette and Daily in York, Pennsylvania. In 1965, he received a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and the following year joined the editorial staff of the Washington Post. In 1979, Maynard became editor of The Oakland Tribune and in 1981 he purchased the paper, becoming the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper. He is recognized for turning the struggling newspaper into a 1990 Pulitzer Prize winning journal. That year, the paper won the prize for Spot News Photography. Maynard used the outreach of the paper to better the community by pushing for improved schools, trauma care centers, and economic development. In 1997, Maynard co-founded the Institute for Journalism Education, an organization dedicated to training journalist of color and providing accurate representation of minorities in the news media. The institute has trained more than 1,000 journalists and editors across the United States and was renamed in his honor after 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.

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