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Today in Black History, 8/28/2012

• August 28, 1818 Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, The Father of Chicago, Illinois, died. Du Sable’s birth date is unknown, but it is generally believed that he was born around 1745 in what is now Haiti. Not much is known of his early life. Du Sable first arrived on the western shores of Lake Michigan around 1779 where he built the first permanent non-indigenous settlement just east of the present Michigan Avenue Bridge. From 1780 to 1784, he managed a huge tract of woodlands on the St. Clair River. Du Sable also operated the first fur-trading post. He left Chicago in 1800 for Peoria, Illinois and in 1813 moved to St. Charles, Missouri where he died. In 1968, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago declared Du Sable “the Founder of Chicago” and erected a granite marker at his grave. In 1976, his home site was designated a National Historic Landmark and in 1987 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. DuSable High School and the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago are named in his honor.

• August 28, 1871 Miles James, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. James was born in 1829 in Prince Anne County, Virginia. By September 30, 1864, he was serving as a corporal in Company B of the 36th Regiment United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. On that day, his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm in Virginia and his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. James’ citation reads, “Having had his arm mutilated, making immediate amputation necessary, he loaded and discharged his piece with one hand and urged his men forward; this within 30 yards of the enemy’s works.” James was awarded the medal on April 6, 1865.

• August 28, 1913 Cornelius Cooper Johnson, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Los Angeles, California. Johnson specialized in the high jump and competed at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games as a high school junior, finishing fourth. He attended Compton Junior College and won five outdoor and three indoor United States championships in the high jump. Johnson won the Gold medal in the high jump at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. After retiring from the sport, he worked for several years with the U.S. Post Office before joining the U.S. Merchant Marines in 1945. Johnson died February 15, 1946 and was posthumously inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1994.

• August 28, 1942 Jose Eduardo dos Santos, current President of the Republic of Angola, was born in Sambizanga, Luanda, Angola. While still in school, dos Santos joined the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Due to the repression of the colonial government, he was forced into self-exile in 1961. To continue his education, dos Santos moved to the Soviet Union where he earned an engineering degree from the Azerbaijan Oil and Chemistry Institute. In 1970, dos Santos returned to Angola and joined the MPLA guerrilla forces. When Angola gained its independence in 1975, he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. In 1979, dos Santos was elected President of Angola. Under his leadership, Angola has had one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

• August 28, 1952 Rita Frances Dove, Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author, was born in Akron, Ohio. Dove earned her Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from Miami University in 1973 and her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writer’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1977. From 1981 to 1989, she taught at Arizona State University and since 1989 she has taught at the University of Virginia. Dove has published nine volumes of poetry, including “Thomas and Beulah” for which she received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1987. She was the second African American to receive that prize. In addition to her poetry, Dove has published a book of short stories, “Fifth Sunday” (1985), a collection of essays, “The Poet’s World” (1995), and a novel, “Through the Ivory Gate” (1992). In 2011, she edited “The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry.” In 1993, Dove was named Poet Laureate of the United States by the Library of Congress, a position she held until 1995. She is the youngest person and the first and to date only African American to hold the position. From 1999 to 2000, she served as Special Bicentennial Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress. In 2004, she was appointed to a two year position as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1996, Dove was presented the Charles Frankel Prize by President William Clinton for work that has “deepened the nations’ understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.” Dove has received 22 honorary doctorates and the 2009 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal. Dove is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

• August 28, 1955 Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till was murdered in Money, Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Till was born July 25, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois. He arrived in Money on August 21, 1955 to stay at the home of his uncle for a short period of time. On August 24, he joined several other young African American teenagers at Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market for candy and sodas. Till allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant who was white and working at the store. When Bryant’s husband, Ray, returned from a road trip a few days later and was told of the alleged incident, he and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, kidnapped Till from his uncle’s house. Till’s body was found swollen and disfigured in the Tallahatchie River three days later. On September 23, 1955, Bryant and Milam were acquitted of murder by an all-white jury after 67 minutes of deliberation. In January, 1956, Look magazine published an interview in which Bryant and Milam admitted that they had murdered Till. In 1991, a seven mile stretch of 71st street in Chicago was renamed “Emmett Till Memorial Highway” and in 2005 the school that Till attended was renamed Emmett Louis Till Math and Science Academy. Several books have been published about the murder of Till, including “A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till” (1988) and “Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America” (2003).

• August 28, 1963 More than 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C. by marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. The march was organized by A. Phillip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, James Farmer, president of the Congress of Racial Equality, John Lewis, president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Martin Luther King, Jr. , president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Roy Wilkins, president of the NAACP, and Whitney Young, president of the National Urban League. At the Lincoln Memorial King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, first delivered in Detroit on June 23, 1963. The march is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the National Voting Rights Act of 1965.

• August 28, 2010 William Patrick Foster, hall of fame bandmaster and creator of the Florida A&M University “Marching 100,” died. Foster was born August 25, 1919 in Kansas City, Kansas. He earned his Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Kansas in 1941, his Master of Arts degree in music from Wayne State University in 1950, and his Doctor of Education degree in music from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1955. When Foster became director of the band in 1946, the school was known as the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes. He introduced over 30 new techniques to the band which have become standard procedures for high school and college bands nationwide. In 1989, France chose the Florida A&M band as America’s official representative in the Bastille Day Parade celebrating the bicentennial of the French Revolution. In 1992, Sports Illustrated magazine declared the Florida A&M band the best marching band in the country. Foster retired in 1998 and was the first recipient of the United States Achievement Academy Hall of Fame Award. Also in 1998, he was elected to the National Band Association Hall of Distinguished Band Conductors, the most prestigious honor a bandmaster can receive. Foster authored “Band Pageantry: A Guide for the Marching Band” and “The Man Behind the Baton.”

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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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