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Today in Black History, 8/22/2012

• August 22, 1791 The African descended enslaved people of Saint Domingue (Haiti) rose in revolt and plunged the colony into a 12 year revolution that freed them from colonization and slavery. One of the most successful leaders of the revolution was Toussaint L’Ouverture. On January 1, 1804 Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the new leader of the revolution, declared the former colony independent and renamed it Haiti, making it the first independent nation in Latin American and the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world.

• August 22, 1867 Fisk University was incorporated under Tennessee law with “a dream of an educational institution that would be open to all, regardless of race, and that would measure itself by the highest standards, not of Negro education, but of American education at its best.” The school was named after General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedmen’s Bureau. In 1930, Fisk was the first African American institution to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1952, Fisk was the first predominantly black college to earn a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. Fisk has a strong record of academic excellence. It has graduated more African Americans who go on to earn Ph.D.’s in the natural sciences than any other institution. Alumni of Fisk include W.E.B. DuBose, John Hope Franklin and Nikki Giovanni.

• August 22, 1917 John Lee Hooker, hall of fame singer, songwriter, and blues guitarist, was born in Coahoma County near Clarksdale, Mississippi. At the age of 15, Hooker ran away from home and in 1948 landed in Detroit, Michigan working at the Ford Motor Company and playing in the blues venues and saloons on Hasting Street. Hooker began recording in 1948 and over his career recorded over 100 albums, including “John Lee Hooker Sings the Blues” (1961), “The Healer” (1989), and “The Best of Friends” (1998). Hooker was a charter inductee to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, in 1991 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1996 he received the Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. Two of his songs, “Boogie Chillen” (1948) and “Boom Boom” (1962), are included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Hooker won four Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. His biography, “Boogie Man: Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the 20th Century,” was published in 2000. Hooker died June 21, 2001.

• August 22, 1922 Bruce Anderson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Anderson was born June 19, 1845 in Mexico, New York. He was a farmer prior to enlisting in the Union Army in 1864 during the Civil War. On January 15, 1865, he was serving as a private in Company K of the 142nd New York Infantry when he participated in an attack on Fort Fisher in North Carolina. He and 12 other men volunteered to advance ahead of the main attack and cut down the palisade which blocked their path. Despite intense fire from the Confederate defenders, they were successful in destroying the obstacle. Anderson and the others were recommended for the medal, but the recommendation was lost. In 1914, Anderson hired a lawyer to petition for the medal and on December 28, 1914 he was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Not much is known of Anderson’s later life.

• August 22, 1933 Asa Grant Hilliard, III, educator, historian, and psychologist, was born in Galveston, Texas. Hilliard earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Denver in 1955 and served in the United States Army as a first lieutenant from 1955 to 1957. He earned his Master of Arts degree in counseling and his Doctor of Education degree in educational psychology from the University of Denver in 1961 and 1963, respectively. Hilliard taught at San Francisco State University for 18 years, serving as department chair and dean of education. He was also a consultant to the Peace Corp and superintendent of schools in Liberia. From 1980 until his death on August 13, 2007, Hilliard was the Fuller E. Calloway Professor of Urban Education at Georgia State University. Hilliard served as lead expert witness in several landmark federal cases involving test validity and bias. He was also a founding member of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations and the National Black Child Development Institute. His publications include “The Maroom Within Us: Selected Essays on African American Community Socialization” (1995), “The Reawakening of the African Mind” (1997), and “African Power: Affirming African Indigenous Socialization in the Face of the Cultural Wars” (2002).

• August 22, 1978 Jomo Kenyatta, first Prime Minister and President of the Republic of Kenya, died. Kenyatta was born October 20, 1893 in the village of Ngende, Gatundu, in British East Africa (now Kenya). In 1929, Kenyatta moved to Europe for education and work. In 1946, he returned to Kenya and in 1947 was elected president of the Kenya African Union. In 1951, the Mau Mau rebellion began and the British declared a state of emergency. Kenyatta was convicted and sentenced to seven years of hard labor for managing and being a member of the Mau Mau Society. In 1961, he was released and in 1963 elected Prime Minister of the Kenyan government. On June 1, 1964, Kenya became an independent republic with Kenyatta as president. He remained president until his death. Kenyatta authored a number of books, including “Facing Mount Kenya” (1938), “Kenya: The Land of Conflict” (1971), and his autobiography, “Suffering Without Bitterness” (1968). A number of streets, schools, hospitals, and other institutions in Kenya bear his name, including Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Kenya observes a public holiday every October 20 in his honor.

• August 22, 1989 Huey Percy Newton, co-founder and leader of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was fatally shot. Newton was born February 17, 1942 in Monroe, Louisiana, but raised in Oakland, California. In 1966, while at Oakland City College, he and Bobby Seale organized the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Seale became chairman while Newton became minister of defense. In 1968, Newton was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the death of a policeman and sentenced to 2-15 years in prison. In 1970, the California Appellate Court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. After two subsequent mistrials, the State of California dropped the case. In 1977, Newton was acquitted of the murder of a prostitute after two trials ended in deadlock. In 1996, “A Huey P. Newton Story” was performed on stage by Roger Guenveur Smith. The one man play was then made into an award winning 2001 documentary film. Several biographies have been published about Newton, including “Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton” (1970) and “Huey: Spirit of the Panther” (2006).

• August 22, 2011 Nickolas Ashford, hall of fame songwriter and recording artist, died. Ashford was born May 4, 1942 in Fairfield, South Carolina. In 1963, he met Valerie Simpson in New York City and they began to perform and compose together. Songs that they wrote during that time include “Cry like a Baby” for Aretha Franklin and “Let’s Go Get Stoned” for Ray Charles. In 1966, they joined Motown Records where they wrote and/or produced a number of hits, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” for Diana Ross, and “Who’s Gonna Take the Blame” for Smoky Robinson & The Miracles. They also had hits with Teddy Pendergrass with “Is It Still Good to You” and Chaka Khan with “I’m Every Woman.” In 1973, Ashford and Simpson left Motown and resumed their recording career. They had several hits, including “Don’t Cost You Nothin’” (1977), “Is It Still Good to Ya” (1978), and “Solid” (1984). The duo continued to record and tour until Ashford’s death. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.

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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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