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Today in Black History, 8/20/2012

• August 20, 1619 The first 20 Africans were brought to what would become Jamestown, Virginia aboard a Dutch ship. The Africans were traded for food and supplies as temporary indentured servants in the same way that English whites were owned as laborers in the New World. Their labor arrangement was for a specified period of time after which they were free to live their lives, just as the English laborers were. The permanent enslavement of Africans in America was implemented later.

• August 20, 1931 Donald King, boxing promoter, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1966, King was convicted of manslaughter and served just under four years in prison. While in prison, he decided to turn his life around and became a voracious reader. Shortly after his release, he ventured into the world of boxing and became the first major African American promoter. In 1974, he promoted “The Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship fight between Muhammad Ali and George Forman in Zaire, Africa. The following year, King solidified his position as one of boxing’s premiere promoters by promoting the “Thrilla in Manila” heavyweight championship fight between Ali and Joe Frazier. Over the next two decades, he promoted many of the biggest fights in boxing. In 1994, he staged a record 47 world title bouts. King has been named the greatest promoter in history by boxing’s three major sanctioning bodies and has promoted more than 500 world championship fights over his career. In 1997, HBO aired the made for television movie “Don King: Only in America.” King’s net worth is estimated to be more than $150 million.

• August 20, 1939 The National Negro Bowling Association was formed in Detroit, Michigan. The organization included teams from Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Racine. Teams from other parts of the country joined later. In 1944, the NNBA changed its name to the National Bowling Association. The association welcomes people of all races, but African Americans have always dominated its membership. The NBA currently has over 100 chapters throughout the United States with more than 23,000 members. Approximately 80% of the membership is African American.

• August 20, 1941 William Herbert Gray III, former member of the United States House of Representatives and former President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Gray earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Franklin and Marshall College in 1963. He earned his Master of Divinity degree from Drew Theological Seminary in 1966 and his Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1970. In 1972, he succeeded his father as the senior minister at Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1978 and served until his resignation in 1991. Gray was the first African American to chair the House Budget Committee and also the first to serve as the majority whip. Gray served as President of the UNCF from 1991 to 2004 and as a special adviser to President William Clinton on Haitian affairs in 1994. Gray retired from Bright Hope in 2007. He serves on the Board of Directors of several Fortune 500 companies, including Dell and Prudential Financial.

• August 20, 1942 Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr., hall of fame songwriter, musician, singer and actor, was born in Covington, Tennessee. Hayes 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. He 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 also appeared in a number of movies, including “Escape from New York” (1981), “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993), and “Hustle and Flow” (2005). Hayes died on August 10, 2008.

• August 20, 1954 Albert Lincoln Roker, television weatherman and author, was born in New York City. Roker earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from the State University of New York in 1976. He began his career as a weatherman for WHEN-TV in Syracuse, New York where he worked from 1974 to 1976. From 1978 to 1983, he was with WKYC-TV in Cleveland, Ohio and from 1983 to 1987 he was with WNBC-TV in New York City. In 1987, Roker was promoted to the national “Weekend Today” television show and in 1996 he was promoted to the daily “Today Show” where he currently appears. Roker has won two Emmy Awards for weather forecasting. Roker has written several books, including “Don’t Make Me Stop This Car: Adventures in Fatherhood” (2000), “Al Roker’s Big Bad Book of Barbecue” (2002), and the novels “The Morning Show Murders” (2009) and “The Talk Show Murders” (2011).

• August 20, 2008 Eugene Thurman Upshaw, Jr., hall of fame football player and labor leader, died. Upshaw was born August 15, 1945 in Robstown, Texas. He played college football at Texas A&I University and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1968. Upshaw was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 1967 AFL Draft. Over his 15 season career, he was a six-time All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion. In 1987, Upshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and in 2004 the NCAA inaugurated the Gene Upshaw Division II College Lineman of the Year Award. Upshaw was an active member of the bargaining committee for the NFL Players’ Association and in 1983 became its executive director. He served in that capacity until his death. Upshaw is widely acclaimed for his role in ensuring the stability and success of professional football in the 1990s and early 2000s.

• August 20, 2008 Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first African American woman elected to Congress from Ohio, died. Tubbs Jones was born September 10, 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Case Western Reserve University in 1971 and Juris Doctorate degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1974. In 1981, Tubbs Jones was elected to the Cleveland Municipal Court and she subsequently served on the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County from 1983 to 1991. In 1998, Tubbs Jones was elected to the United States House of Representatives where she served until her death. During her time in Congress, she served on the House Ways and Means Committee and was chair of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. The Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center and the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center in Cleveland, Ohio are named in her honor.

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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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