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Today in Black History, 9/19/2012

• September 19, 1889 Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany, educator, author, and civil rights pioneer, was born in Lynch Station, Virginia. Delany graduated from Saint Augustine’s School (now college) in 1910 and moved to New York City in 1916 where she began teaching in the public school system. She earned her bachelor and master’s degrees in education from Columbia University in 1920 and 1925, respectively. Delany was the first black person permitted to teach domestic science at the high school level in New York City public schools. She retired from teaching in 1960. In 1993, Delany and her sister Bessie published “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” which dealt with the trials and tribulations the sisters had faced during their century of life. The book was on the New York Times hardcover best seller list for 28 weeks and on the paperback list for 77 weeks. In 1999, it was made into a television movie. In 1994, the sisters published “The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom” and after Bessie’s death, Delany in 1997 published “On My Own at 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie.” In 1993, Delany and her sister were included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest authors. Delany died January 25, 1999.

• September 19, 1930 Muhal Richard Abrams, hall of fame jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Abrams is a self-taught musician and his first gigs were playing the blues, R&B, and hard bop circuit in Chicago. In 1962, he formed the Experimental Band which evolved into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians with Abrams as president. Their first recording was “Levels and Degrees of Light” in 1967. Other Albums by Abrams as leader include “Blues Forever” (1982), “Family Talk” (1993), and “Vision Towards Essence” (2007). He has composed for symphony orchestras, string quartets, and big bands in addition to making a series of larger ensemble recordings. In 2010, Abrams was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the United States bestows upon a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame.

• September 19, 1931 Brook Benton, singer and songwriter, was born Benjamin Franklin Peay in Lugoff, South Carolina. At the age of 18, Benton moved to New York City to pursue his music career. There, he changed his name at the suggestion of his record label and earned a living writing songs for Nat King Cole and Clyde McPhatter, for whom he wrote “A Lover’s Question.’ In 1959, he made his breakthrough as a solo artist with “It’s Just a Matter of Time” and “Endlessly,” both of which were written by him and Clyde Otis. In 1960, Benton had two hit duets with Dinah Washington, “You Got What It Takes” and “A Rockin’ Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love).’ Over his career, Benton charted 49 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. His last major hit was “Rainy Night in Georgia” in 1970. Benton died on April 9, 1988. The album “Fools Rush In” was released posthumously in 2005.

• September 19, 1935 Alvin Demar Loving, Jr., one of the foremost exponents of abstract expressionism and educator, was born in Detroit, Michigan. In 1963, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Illinois and in 1965 his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan. In 1968, Loving moved to New York City and had a one-person show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969. By the late 1990s, his major works were selling for $70,000 each. From 1988 to 1996, he taught at City College in New York. Loving died June 21, 2005. His work is in the permanent collections of several museums, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Studio Museum of Harlem, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A mural commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority completed by Loving in 2001 is on view at the Broadway-East New York subway station in Brooklyn.

• September 19, 1943 Joe Leonard Morgan, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Bonham, Texas, but raised in Oakland, California. Morgan was signed by the Houston Colt .45’s as an amateur free agent in 1962 and made his major league debut with them in September, 1963. Morgan was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1971 in what many consider to be one of the worst trades in Houston history. Over his 21-season professional career, Morgan was a ten-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner, National League Most Valuable Player in 1975 and 1976, and 1982 Comeback Player of the Year. Morgan retired as a player at the end of the 1984 season. In the “New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract,” James named Morgan the best second baseman in baseball history. Morgan was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990. From 1989 to 2010, he served as a commentator for ESPN television and radio. He currently serves as special advisor to baseball operations for the Reds.

• September 19, 1956 The first International Congress of Black Writers and Artists was convened at the Sorbonne in Paris, France under the auspices of the journal Présence Africaine. African descended intellectuals from around the globe came to Paris to denounce the colonial powers of France, Great Britain, and the United States and to express their commitment to combat all forms of discrimination. Over the four day congress speakers included Martinician poet and political leader Aimé Césaire, Senegalese writer Alioune Diop, French West Indian psychiatrist and political theorist Frantz Fanon, future President of Senegal Léopold Sédar Senghor, and writer Richard Wright. W.E.B. Du Bois was supposed to serve as master of ceremony, but was prevented from leaving the United States because of his outspoken political views.

• September 19, 1958 Azumah Nelson, hall of fame boxer, was born in Accra, Ghana. Nelson had a stellar amateur career with a record of 50 wins and 2 losses before turning professional in 1979. In 1984, he won the WBC World Featherweight Championship which he held for three years before abandoning it to move up in weight. In 1988, he won the WBC Jr. Lightweight Championship which he lost in 1994, regained in 1995, and lost again in 1997. Nelson retired from boxing in 1998 with a record of 39 wins, 6 losses, and 2 draws. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004. Nelson is considered a national hero in Ghana and is widely recognized as the greatest fighter to come out of that nation.

• September 19, 1963 Iota Phi Theta Fraternity was founded at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. There purpose is “the development and perpetuation of scholarship, leadership, citizenship, fidelity, and brotherhood among men.’ Today they have more than 40,000 members in 300 undergraduate and alumni chapters. Notable members include Bobby Rush, Elvin Hayes, and Terrence “T.C.” Carson.

• September 19, 1965 Timothy Eugene Scott, one of the first Republican African American congressmen from the Deep South since Reconstruction, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Scott earned his Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Charleston Southern University in 1988. From 1995 to 2008, he served on the Charleston County Council, becoming chairman in 2007. In 2008, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and in 2010 was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he serves on the Committee on Transportation and the Committee on Small Business. Additionally, Scott owns an insurance agency and works as a financial advisor.

• September 19, 1965 Katrina McClain Johnson, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Johnson played college basketball at the University of Georgia where she was an All-American in 1986 and 1987 and the National Player of the Year in 1987. She played on the Gold medal winning women’s basketball teams at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the Bronze medal winning team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Johnson played professionally overseas in Japan, Italy, and Spain for nine seasons before ending her professional career with the Atlanta Glory of the American Basketball League. Johnson was USA Basketball’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1988 and 1992. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

• September 19, 1965 Debrah Lynn “Debbye” Turner, veterinarian, talk show host, and former beauty queen, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, but raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas. In 1989, Turner won the Miss Missouri title and went on to be crowned Miss America in 1990, the third African American Miss America. Turner earned her Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture at Arkansas State University in 1986 and completed her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at the University of Missouri in 1991. She pursued veterinary medicine before deciding to go into television. In 2001, she joined CBS News as a reporter and contributor for “The Early Show” which she continues to do. Over the years, Turner has spoken to more than 500,000 people at hundreds of schools, youth organizations and college commencement ceremonies.

• September 19, 1989 William Samuel “Willie” Steele, hall of fame track and field athlete, died. Steele was born July 14, 1923. He competed for San Jose State College and won the NCAA long jump titles in 1947 and 1948. He also won the National AAU Championship in the event in 1946, 1947, and 1948. At the 1948 London Olympic Games, Steele won the Gold medal in the long jump. He was posthumously inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2009. Not much else is known of Steele’s life.

• September 19, 2008 Earl Cyril Palmer, hall of fame drummer, died. Palmer was born October 25, 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He started his entertainment career at the age of five as a tap dancer on the black vaudeville circuit. He toured the country extensively with the Darktown Scandals Review. Palmer served in Europe for the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he studied piano and percussion and started drumming with the Dave Bartholomew Band. He also recorded on most of the hits by Fats Domino and Little Richard. Palmer moved to Los Angeles, California in 1957 where he played drums on the soundtracks of many movies and television shows. He also played on recordings by Frank Sinatra, Rick Nelson, Ray Charles, Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, and Elvis Costello. In 2000, Palmer became one of the first session players to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His biography, “Backbeat: the Earl Palmer Story,” was published in 1999.

• September 19, 2010 William Marcel “Buddy” Collette, jazz tenor saxophonist, flautist, and clarinetist, died. Collette was born August 6, 1921 in Los Angeles, California. He 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. He 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.

• September 19, 2011 George Benton, hall of fame boxing trainer, died. Benton was born May 15, 1933 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started boxing as a young teenager and turned professional at the age of 16. He became a highly ranked middleweight contender in the early 1960s, but his boxing career was ended in 1970 when he was shot. After that, he started training other boxers, including Evander Holyfield, Mike McCallum, Meldrick Taylor, and Pernell Whittaker, among others. In 1989 and 1990, Benton received the Futch-Condon Award for Trainer of the Year from the Boxing Writers Association of America. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.

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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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