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Today in Black History, 8/5/2012

• August 5, 1763 Bill Richmond, hall of fame boxer, was born enslaved in Staten Island, New York. In 1777, Richmond was taken to England to apprentice as a cabinet maker, but he took up boxing. Known as “The Black Terror,” he was one of the most accomplished and respected fighters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Richmond retired from boxing in 1818 at the age of 55 and established a boxing academy. Richmond died December 28, 1829 and was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.

• August 5, 1895 Theodore “Tiger” Flowers, hall of fame boxer and the first African American Middleweight Boxing Champion, was born in Camilla, Georgia. Flowers began boxing professionally in 1918 and in 1926 won the World Middleweight Boxing Championship. Later that year, he lost the title in a controversial decision. Flowers died on November 16, 1927 from complications from surgery to remove scar tissue from around his eyes. His career boxing record was 136 wins, 15 losses, 8 draws, and 2 no contests. Flowers was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

• August 5, 1900 James Augustine Healy, the first African American Roman Catholic priest and the first African American bishop in the United States, died. Healy was born enslaved on April 6, 1830 near Macon, Georgia. Although he was three-quarters or more of European ancestry, he was considered black. Because Georgia prohibited the education of slaves, Healy’s Irish-American father arranged for his children to move to the North where they could obtain an education and have better opportunities. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, and was valedictorian of his class, from the College of Holy Cross in 1849. Following graduation, Healy wanted to enter the priesthood, but could not study at the Jesuit novitiate in Maryland as it was a slave state. Therefore, he entered Sulpician Seminary in Montreal, Canada where he earned his Master of Arts degree in 1851. He was ordained as a priest on June 10, 1854 at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. In 1866, Healy became pastor of St. James Church, the largest Catholic congregation in Boston, and on June 2, 1875 he was officially ordained as Bishop of Portland. For the next 25 years, he governed his diocese, overseeing the establishment of 60 new churches, 68 missions, 18 convents, and 18 schools. Today, the Archdiocese of Boston, Office for Black Catholics awards the Bishop James Augustine Healy Award to dedicated black parishioners. Healy’s biography, “Bishop Healy: Beloved Outcast,” was published in 1954. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.

• August 5, 1928 William Alexander Scott II founded the Atlanta Daily World, the first African American daily newspaper in the United States. In the first issue, Scott stated that, “The publishers of the Atlanta World have felt the need of a Southern Negro newspaper, published by Southern Negros, to be read by Southern Negros.” On February 8, 1944 the Atlanta Daily World became the first African American paper to assign a correspondent to the White House and Harry S. Alpin became the first African American reporter to cover the White House. Many prominent journalists began their careers at the Atlanta Daily World, including Lerone Bennett. The paper now publishes daily online and weekly in print.

• August 5, 1938 James Hal Cone, an advocate of black liberation theology, was born in Fordyce, Arkansas. Cone earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Philander Smith College in 1958, his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1961, and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University in 1963 and 1965, respectively. His 1969 book “Black Theology and Black Power” provided a new way to articulate the distinctiveness of theology in the black church. Other books by Cone include “A Black Theology of Liberation” (1970), “God of the Oppressed” (1975), and “Speaking the Truth: Ecumenism, Liberation, and Black Theology” (1999). He has received eight honorary degrees and was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Cone taught theology and religion at Philander Smith College and Adrian College and is currently the Charles Augustus Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

• August 5, 1960 Upper Volta, now known as Burkina Faso, gained independence from France. In 1984 the country was renamed to mean “the land of upright people” in their native language. Burkina Faso is located in Western Africa and is bordered by Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwest. The country is approximately 106,000 square miles in size with a population of approximately 13,200,000. Approximately 60% of the population practices Islam, 24% maintain traditional indigenous beliefs and 17% practice Roman Catholicism.

• August 5, 1962 Patrick Aloysius Ewing, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Ewing played college basketball at Georgetown University and led them to the NCAA Tournament Championship game three out of his four years, winning the championship in 1984. He was awarded the Adolph F. Rupp Trophy in 1985 as the top player in men’s Division I NCAA Basketball. Ewing also earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in fine arts that year. He was selected first overall by the New York Knicks in the 1985 NBA Draft. Over his 18 year professional career, Ewing was the 1986 NBA Rookie of the Year and an 11-time All-Star. Ewing also won Gold medals as a member of the men’s basketball team at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. ESPN named Ewing the 16th greatest college basketball player of all time and in 1996 the National Basketball Association named him one of the 50 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time. Ewing was also the chairman of the New York Knicks’ “Stay in School” program in 1991 and 1992 and served as president of the NBA Players Association in 1997. In 2003, the Knicks retired his jersey number 33 and in 2008 he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Ewing was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. He is currently an assistant coach with the NBA Orlando Magic.

• August 5, 2000 Dudley Randall, founder of Broadside Press, died. Randall was born January 14, 1914 in Washington, D.C., but raised in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 13, his first published poem was printed in the Detroit Free Press newspaper. After serving in the military during World War II, Randall earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Wayne State University in 1949 and his Master of Arts degree in library science from the University of Michigan in 1951. In 1965, Randall founded Broadside Press which over the years published many leading African American writers, including Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Haki Madhubuti, and Sterling Brown. Poems written by Randall include “Ballad of Birmingham,” “Booker T. and W.E.B.,” “Roses and Revolutions,” and “The Profile on the Pillow.” In 1981, Randall was named Poet Laureate of the City of Detroit.

• August 5, 2007 Oliver White Hill, Sr., civil rights attorney, died. Hill was born May 1, 1907 in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in 1931 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Howard’s School of Law in 1933. Hill won his first civil rights case in 1940 in Alston v. School Board of Norfolk, Virginia which gained pay equity for black teachers. In 1943, Hill joined the United States Army and served in Europe until the end of World War II. In 1949, he became the first African American to serve on the Richmond City Council since the late 19th century. In 1951, Hill led the case of Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County which in 1954 became one of the five cases decided under Brown v. Board of Education. Hill retired in 1998. During his life, Hill earned many awards, including the American Bar Association Justice Thurgood Marshall Award in 1993 and the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 2005. In 1999, President William Clinton presented him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The Oliver Hill Courts Building in Richmond is named in his honor and the Oliver W. Hill Building in Virginia’s Capitol Square is the first state owned building to be named for an African American. Hill’s autobiography, “The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education, The Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr.,” was published in 2000.

• August 5, 2011 Hazel Winifred Johnson-Brown, nurse, educator, and the first black female brigadier general in the United States Army, died. Johnson-Brown was born October 10, 1927 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She decided to become a nurse as a teenager however her application to the West Chester School of Nursing was rejected because of her race. As a result, she moved to New York City and graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing. She joined the army in 1955 and served as a staff nurse in Japan and chief nurse in Korea. While in the army, she continued her formal education, earning her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Villanova University in 1959, her Master of Science degree in nursing education from Columbia University in 1963, and her Ph.D. in education administration from Catholic University of America in 1978. From 1976 to 1978, Johnson-Brown served as assistant dean of the University of Maryland School of Nursing. In 1979, she became the first black female brigadier general in the army where she commanded 7,000 nurses in the Army National Guard and Reserves. She was also the director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing. After retiring from the army in 1997, Johnson-Brown headed the American Nursing Association’s government relations unit and directed George Mason University’s Center for Health Policy.

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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.