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Today in Black History, 8/6/2012

• August 6, 1848 Susan Baker King Taylor, educator and humanitarian, was born enslaved in Liberty County, Georgia. As a young girl, Taylor was secretly taught to read and write by black women. In 1862, during the Civil War, Taylor’s family moved to Union controlled St. Simons Island where at the age of 14 she organized a school for the children on the island. This made her the first black teacher to openly instruct African American children in Georgia. In 1866, her family returned to Savannah, Georgia where she established a school for freed black children. In the early 1870s, Taylor moved to Boston, Massachusetts where she joined and became president of the Women’s Relief Corps which gave assistance to soldiers and hospitals. In 1902, Taylor published her memoirs, “Reminiscences of My Life in Camp: An African American Woman’s Civil War Memoir.” Taylor died October 6, 1912.

• August 6, 1861 President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the First Confiscation Act of 1861 which authorized the confiscation of any Confederate property by Union forces, including enslaved people. This meant that all enslaved people that fought or worked for the Confederate military and were “confiscated” by Union troops became property of the United States government.

• August 6, 1871 John Wesley Work, Jr., the first black collector of Negro folksongs, was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Work earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin and history from Fisk University in 1895 and 1898, respectively. In 1904, he began teaching Latin and Greek at Fisk. While teaching, Work became a leader in the movement to preserve, study, and perform Negro spirituals. He collected and published a number of collections of slave songs and spirituals. The first of these collections was “New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers” which was published in 1901. In 1907, he published “New Jubilee Songs and Folk Songs of the American Negro” which included the first publication of “Go, Tell It on the Mountain.” In 1915, Work published “Folk Song of the American Negro.” Work resigned from Fisk in 1923 and became president of Roger Williams University, a position he held until his death on September 7, 1925.

• August 6, 1913 Ernest James Hayford, the second African to practice medicine in the Gold Coast, died. Hayford was born April 23, 1858 in Anomabu, Gold Coast (now Ghana). After private medical study from 1882 to 1884, he studied medicine in London, England from 1884 to 1888, specializing in gynecology. As an executive member of the Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society, his interest in politics led him to study law privately and then in London from 1910 to 1913. He was called to the bar just prior to his death.

• August 6, 1919 John Merrick, entrepreneur and businessman, died. Merrick was born enslaved December 7, 1859 in Clinton, North Carolina. He was freed after the Civil War and learned to read and write at a Reconstruction school. In 1880, Merrick moved to Durham, North Carolina and opened a series of barbershops. The success of his barbershops and his community involvement made him prominent in both the white and black communities. In 1898, he co-founded the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association “to relieve stress amongst poverty stricken segments of Durham’s Negro population.” Additionally, in 1901 he served as president of Lincoln Hospital and helped establish Durham’s first African American bank, Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and drug store, Bull City Drugs. In 1910, Merrick co-founded Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate Company to provide property insurance for black property owners. The education of black children was a priority for Merrick. In addition to supporting rural schools and the College for Blacks (now North Carolina Central University), he helped open a public library for the black children of Durham. Just prior to his death, the insurance company changed its name to North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. The company continues in business today. Merrick’s biography, “John Merrick: A Biographical Sketch,” was published in 1920.

• August 6, 1921 William Marcel “Buddy” Collette, jazz tenor saxophonist, flautist, and clarinetist, was born in Los Angeles, California. Collette began playing the alto saxophone at the age of 12 and at 17 started playing professionally. In the early 1950s, he worked as a studio musician and performed on the “You Bet Your Life” television show. In 1956, Collette recorded “Man of Many Parts,” his debut album as a bandleader. Other albums as leader include “Jazz for Thousand Oaks” (1993) and “In Concert: Buddy Collette Big Band” (2000). In 1996, the Library of Congress commissioned Collette to write and perform a concert to highlight his career. Collette published his autobiography, “Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society,” in 2000. Collette was also a pioneering civil rights activist, working to desegregate the Los Angeles musicians union and organizing a concert and rally to protest government repression of Paul Robeson. Collette died September 19, 2010.

• August 6, 1924 Ella Jenkins, folk singer and “The First Lady of the Children’s Folk Song,” was born in St. Louis, Missouri but grew up in Chicago, Illinois. In 1951, Jenkins earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with minors in child psychology and recreation from San Francisco State University. After graduating, she began writing songs for children and hosting a show on Chicago public television called “This is Rhythm.” In 1956, Jenkins became a full-time musician and recorded her first album, “Call-And-Response: Rhythmic Group Singing,” in 1957. Since then, she has recorded 29 other albums, including “Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends” (1999), “Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends Pulling Together” (2000), and “Sharing Cultures with Ella Jenkins” (2005), all of which were nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Musical Album for Children, and “cELLAbration: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins” which won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children. Jenkins is not only an important force in children’s lives but also has taught her approach to working with children to parents and fellow music educators. Jenkins received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Foundation (ASCAP) in 1999, becoming the first woman and the first recipient in the field of children’s music, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004.

• August 6, 1930 Abbey Lincoln, jazz vocalist, songwriter and actress, was born Anna Marie Wooldridge in Chicago, Illinois, but raised in a rural part of Michigan. Lincoln moved to California in 1951 to perform in nightclubs. In 1956, she began her recording career with “Abbey Lincoln’s Affair: A Story of a Girl in Love.” Other recordings by Lincoln include “Abbey is Blue” (1959), “People in Me” (1973), “Devil’s Got Your Tongue” (1992), and “Abbey Sings Abbey” (2007). In 1960, she also sang on the landmark jazz civil rights recording “We Insist! – Freedom Now Suite” by Max Roach. Lincoln appeared in several films, including “The Girl Can’t Help It” (1956), “Nothing But a Man” (1964), “For Love of Ivy” (1968), for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, and “Mo’ Better Blues” (1990). In 2003, Lincoln was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts. Lincoln died August 14, 2010. The Public Broadcasting Service aired a documentary of Lincoln’s life, “You Gotta Pay the Band: The Words, the Music, and the Life of Abbey Lincoln,” in 1992.

• August 6, 1950 Winston Elliott Scott, former NASA astronaut, was born in Miami, Florida. Scott earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Florida State University in 1972. He then entered Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School and was designated a naval aviator in 1974. In 1980, Scott earned his Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. He was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for astronaut training in 1992. Scott served as mission specialist on STS-72 in 1996 and STS-87 in 1997, logging a total of 590 hours and 34 minutes in space, including three spacewalks totaling 19 hour and 26 minutes. Scott retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy in 1999 and is currently the dean of the College of Aeronautics at the Florida Institute of Technology. He published a book about his experiences in space, “Reflections from Earth Orbit,” in 2005.

• August 6, 1962 The island nation of Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom. Jamaica is situated in the Caribbean Sea about 90 miles south of Cuba and 120 miles west of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The island is approximately 4,300 square miles with a population of approximately 2.8 million. Christianity is the main religion practiced.

• August 6, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the National Voting Rights Act of 1965 which outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the United States. Specifically the Act prohibited states from imposing any “voting qualifications or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure…… deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” Congress has amended and extended the Act several times since its original passage, the most recent being the 25-year extension signed by President George W. Bush in 2006.

• August 6, 1965 David Maurice “The Admiral” Robinson, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Key West, Florida. Robinson played college basketball for the United States Naval Academy where he was an All-American in 1986 and 1987 and won the Naismith and Wooden Awards as the College Basketball Player of the Year in 1987. Robinson is generally considered to be the best basketball player in U.S. Naval Academy history. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the academy, Robinson was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1987 NBA Draft. However, Robinson had to serve two years of duty with the navy before he could join the team. Over his 14 season professional career, Robinson was the 1990 Rookie of the Year, the 1992 Defensive Player of the Year, the 1995 Most Valuable Player, a 10-time All-Star, and 2-time NBA Champion. Robinson played on three men’s basketball Olympic teams, winning a Bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and Gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Games and the 1996 Atlanta Games. In 2001, Robinson received the NBA Sportsmanship Award which is given annually to the player who most “exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court – ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.” Also in 2001, Robinson and his wife founded the Carver Academy in San Antonio. To date they have donated more than $11 million to the school. Robinson retired in 2003 and that same year the NBA renamed its award for outstanding charitable efforts in honor of Robinson. Winners of the NBA’s Community Assist Award receive the David Robinson Plaque with the inscription “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson who improved the community piece by piece.” Robinson was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2008, Robinson co-founded Admiral Capital Group to invest in opportunities that can provide both financial and social returns. His biography, “David Robinson: Backboard Admiral,” was published in 1991.

• August 6, 1970 The family of John Earl Warren, Jr. received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Richard M. Nixon for Warren’s actions during the Vietnam War. Warren was born November 16, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York. By January 14, 1969, he was serving as a first lieutenant in Company C, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 25th Infantry Division of the United States Army in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam. His actions on that day earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “While moving through a rubber plantation to reinforce another friendly unit, Company C came under intense fire from a well fortified enemy force. Disregarding his safety, 1st Lt. Warren with several of his men began maneuvering through the hail of enemy fire toward the hostile position. When he came to within 6 feet of one of the enemy bunkers and was preparing to toss a hand grenade into it, an enemy grenade was suddenly thrown into the middle of his small group. Thinking only of his men, 1st Lt. Warren fell in the direction of the grenade, thus shielding those around him from the blast. His actions, performed at the cost of his life, saved 3 men from serious or mortal injury.”

• August 6, 1973 Memphis Minnie, hall of fame blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter, died. Minnie was born Lizzie Douglas on June 3, 1897 in Algiers, Louisiana. She learned to play guitar and banjo as a child and ran away from home at the age of 13 and traveled to Memphis, Tennessee where she played guitar in nightclubs and on the streets. In 1929, she made her recording debut with “Bumble Bee” which became a hit. In the 1930s, Minnie moved to Chicago, Illinois and recorded such hits as “Hustlin’ Woman Blues” (1935), “In My Girlish Days” (1941), “Looking The World Over” (1941), and “Broken Heart” (1952). Minnie was the biggest female blues singer from the early depression years through World War II. Minnie retired from performing and recording in the mid-1950s. In 1980, she was posthumously inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame and in 1992 a biography, “Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie’s Blues,” was published.

• August 6, 1977 William Alexander Clarke Bustamante, the first Prime Minister of Jamaica, died. Bustamante was born William Alexander Clarke on February 24, 1884 in Hanover, Jamaica. He took the name Bustamante to honor an Iberian sea captain who befriended him in his youth. After traveling the world, Bustamante returned to Jamaica in 1932 and became a leader in the struggle against colonial rule. In 1937, he became treasurer of the Jamaica Worker’s Union. As a result of these activities, he was imprisoned for subversive activities from 1940 to 1943. Jamaica was granted independence in 1962 and Bustamante served as the independent country’s first prime minister from 1962 to 1967. In 1969, Bustamante was proclaimed a “National Hero of Jamaica.” Biographies about him include “Alexander Bustamante and Modern Jamaica” (1975) and “Bustamante: anthology of a hero” (1978). There is a Jamaican candy called Busamante backbone which is said to represent his firmness of character.

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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.