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Today in Black History, 9/10/2012

• September 10, 1847 John Roy Lynch, the first African American Speaker of the House in Mississippi, was born enslaved in Concordia Parish, Louisiana. Lynch and his family were freed in 1863 after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. After the Civil War, Lynch learned the photography trade and managed a successful business. He educated himself by reading books and newspapers and eavesdropping on classes at a white school. From 1869 to 1873, he served in the Mississippi House of Representatives, serving the last term as Speaker of the House. In 1873, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served until 1877. He was re-elected in 1880 and served from April, 1882 to March, 1883. During his time in Congress, Lynch worked to support the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to ban discrimination in public accommodations. During the Spanish – American War of 1898, Lynch was appointed treasury auditor and paymaster. In 1901, he joined the Regular Army and served until his retirement in 1911. After leaving the army, he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he practiced law until his death on November 2, 1939. He was buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. In 1913, Lynch authored “The Facts of Reconstruction” which argued that blacks had made substantial contributions to the country during the Reconstruction Period. Lynch’s biography, “Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch,” was published in 1970.

• September 10, 1909 Evelyne Ruth Hall, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but raised in Chicago, Illinois. Hall was the AAU outdoor 80 meter hurdles champion in 1930 and the AAU indoor 50 meter hurdles champion in 1931, 1933, and 1935. Hall won the 80 meter hurdles Silver medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. After retiring from track, Hall served as a track coach and physical education instructor. She was the women’s coach for the United States team at the first Pan-American Games in 1951. She also served as track and field chairman for the U.S. Olympic Committee for several years. In 1984, Hall was presented the first Freedom Award by the Special Olympics. Hall was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1988 and died April 20, 1993.

• September 10, 1923 Hoyt William Fuller, editor, critic, and leading figure in the Black Arts Movement, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Fuller earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950 from Wayne State University and worked for the Michigan Chronicle and the Detroit Tribune. Frustrated by American racism, in 1957 he moved abroad, living in France, Spain, and Guinea. He shared that experience in a collection of essays, “Journey to Africa,” published in 1971. Fuller returned to the United States in 1960 and in 1961 became editor of Negro Digest. In a few years, Negro Digest became the leading forum of the Black Arts Movement and in 1970 was renamed Black World. During the 1960s, Fuller also founded the Organization of Black American Culture, a Chicago based writer’s collective which included Haki Madhbuti and Nikki Giovanni, among others. Fuller died May 11, 1981.Dudley Randall published “Homage to Hoyt Fuller” in 1984.

• September 10, 1925 Roy James Brown, hall of fame R&B singer, songwriter, and musician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Brown started singing gospel music in the church choir. In 1947, he wrote and recorded “Good Rocking Tonight” which was a hit, reaching number 13 on the Billboard R&B charts. That song was subsequently covered by such rock and roll stars as Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Pat Boone. Other hits by Brown include “Long About Midnight” (1948), “Rockin’ at Midnight” (1948), “Hard Luck Blues” (1950), and “Let the Four Winds Blow” (1957). Brown’s vocal style influenced B. B. King, Bobby Bland, Jackie Wilson, and Little Richard. Brown died May 25, 1981 and was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame that same year.

• September 10, 1940 Junious “Buck” Buchanan, hall of fame football player, was born in Gainesville, Alabama. Buchanan played college football at Grambling State University where he was an NAIA All-American selection. He was the first player selected overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1963 AFL Draft, making him the first black number one draft choice in professional football history. Over his 13 season professional career, Buchanan was a six-time All-Pro. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. Buchanan died July 16, 1992 and was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. The Buck Buchanan Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding defensive player in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision of college football.

• September 10, 1946 James Ray Hines, hall of fame track and field athlete and the first sprinter to officially break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters, was born in Dumas, Arkansas, but raised in Oakland, California. Hines ran track in college for Texas Southern University. At the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, Hines won the Gold medal and set a world record of 9.95 seconds in the 100 meters race. His record stood for 15 years. Hines also won a Gold medal as a member of the 4 by 100 meters relay team. After the Olympics, Hines was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the 1968 NFL Draft. He only had a brief professional football career, playing his last game in 1970. After retiring, Hines worked with inner-city youth in Houston. In 1979, Hines was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

• September 10, 1948 Garfield McConnell Langhorn, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Cumberland, Virginia. Langhorn joined the United States Army in 1968 and by January 15, 1969 was serving as a private first class in Troop C, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade during the Vietnam War. On that date, his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “Pfc. Langhorn’s platoon was inserted into a landing zone to rescue 2 pilots of a Cobra helicopter shot down by enemy fire on a heavily timbered slope. He provided radio coordination with the command and control aircraft overhead while the troops hacked their way through dense undergrowth to the wreckage, where both aviators were found dead. As the men were taking the bodies to a pickup site, they suddenly came under intense fire from North Vietnamese soldiers in camouflaged bunkers to the front and right flank, and within minutes they were surrounded. Pfc. Langhorn immediately radioed for help from the orbiting gunships, which began to place minigun and rocket fire on the aggressors. He then lay between the platoon leader and another man, operating the radio and providing covering fire for the wounded who had moved to the center of the small perimeter. Darkness soon fell, making it impossible for the gunships to give accurate support, and the aggressors began to probe the perimeter. An enemy grenade landed in front of Pfc. Langhorn and a few feet from personnel who had become casualties. Choosing to protect these wounded, he unhesitatingly threw himself on the grenade, scooped it beneath his body and absorbed the blast. By sacrificing himself, he saved the lives of his comrades.” The medal was presented to his mother on April 7, 1970 by President Richard M. Nixon.

• September 10, 1948 Robert Jerry Lanier, Jr., hall of fame basketball player, was born in Buffalo, New York. Lanier played college basketball at St. Bonaventure University where he was a three-time All-American and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1970. Lanier was selected number one overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 1970 NBA Draft. Over his 14 season professional career, Lanier was a six-time All-Star. In 1978, he won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for “outstanding service and dedication to the community” and in 1984 he won the Oscar Robinson Leadership Award. Lanier retired in 1984 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. From 1989 to 1993, Lanier served as national chair of the NBA’s Stay in School Program. He is currently the founder and president of Bob Lanier Enterprises in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The basketball court at St. Bonaventure is named in his honor.

• September 10, 1949 Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first African American woman elected to Congress from Ohio, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Tubbs Jones earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Case Western Reserve University in 1971 and her Juris Doctorate degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1974. In 1981, she 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 on August 20, 2008. 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.

• September 10, 1976 Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, educator and the first black president of Howard University, died. Johnson was born January 12, 1890 in Paris, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College in 1911, his second Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in 1913, and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from the Rochester Theological Seminary. From 1917 to 1926, Johnson served as pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Virginia. In 1926, Johnson was elected president of Howard University, a position he held until his retirement in 1960. During his tenure, he greatly expanded the campus, building a library and several new structures for several schools within the university. Enrollment increased from 2,000 to 10,000 students and finances were stabilized. In 1929, Johnson was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. Johnson’s biography, “Mordecai, The Man and His Message: The Story of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson,” was published in 1998.

• September 10, 1979 Antonio Agostinho Neto, the first President of the Republic of Angola, died. Neto was born September 17, 1922 in Bengo Province, Angola. In 1947, Neto left Angola for Portugal to study medicine. While in Portugal, he was imprisoned for seven years for his political activities. In 1958, Neto graduated from the University of Lisbon with his medical degree and in 1959 returned to Angola. After his return, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola was formed with Neto as president. For the next twelve years, Neto directed the armed struggle within Angola against Portuguese colonial rule. In 1975, Angola achieved full independence from Portugal and Neto became the first President of Angola. He served in that position until his death and is often referred to as “the father of modern Angola.” The main university in Angola, the Agostinho Neto University, is named in his honor as well as an airport in Santo Antao, Cape Verde.

• September 10, 2005 Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, hall of fame blues musician, died. Brown was born April 18, 1924 in Vinton, Louisiana. He began his professional career in 1945 and made his recording debut in 1949 with “Mary is Fine” and “My Time is Expensive.” During the 1960s, Brown made several appearances on the television show “Hee Haw” and beginning in 1971 toured Europe 12 times, including several tours sponsored by the United States State Department. In 1982, Brown won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Alright Again!.” In 1997, Brown was honored with the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award and in 1999 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

• September 10, 2010 Ronald G. Walters, scholar, author, and political consultant, died. Walters was born July 20, 1938 in Wichita, Kansas. In 1958, as president of the Wichita NAACP Youth Council, he organized the Dockum Drug Store sit-in which led to the desegregation of drugstores in Wichita. Walters earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in history and government from Fisk University in 1963. He earned his Master of Arts in African studies and Ph.D. in international studies from American University in 1966 and 1971, respectively. Walters served as professor and chair of the political science department at Howard University for 25 years and for 13 years until his retirement in 2009 was director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. Walters also served as campaign manager for Jesse Jackson during his 1984 and 1988 presidential bids. Walters published a number of books, including “Black Presidential Politics in America: A Strategic Approach” (1988) which won the Bunche Prize. Other books by Walters include “Standing Up in America’s Heartlands: Sitting in Before Greensboro” (1993) and “White Nationalism, Black Interests: Conservative Public Policy and the Black Community” (2003).

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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.