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Today in Black History, 9/2/2012

• September 2, 1766 James Forten, abolitionist and businessman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of 15, Forten served on a ship during the Revolutionary War and invented a device to handle ship sails. In 1786, he started a very successful sailmaking company and became one of the wealthiest blacks in post-colonial America. Forten, with the help of Rev. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, enlisted 2,500 African Americans to defend Philadelphia during the War of 1812. They also worked together to establish the Convention of Color in 1817. By the 1830s, Forten was one of the most powerful voices for people of color throughout the North. In 1833, he helped William Lloyd Garrison and Robert Purvis form the American Anti-Slavery Society and provided generous financial support to the organization over the years. When Forten died on March 4, 1842, he left behind an exemplary family, a sizable fortune, and a legacy of philanthropy and activism that inspired generations of black Philadelphians. In 1990, a historical marker was dedicated in his honor in Philadelphia and his biography, “A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten,” was published in 2002.

• September 2, 1884 John Percial Parker was awarded patent number 304,552 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses. Parker was born in 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. At the age of eight, he was sold into slavery. By 1845, he had earned enough money to buy his freedom for $1800. As a free man, he became involved with abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. During the Civil War, Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army and supplied castings for the war effort. In 1854, Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company. On May 19, 1885, he received patent number 318,285 for a Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer. Parker’s foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918, well after his death on February 4, 1900. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997. Parker’s autobiography, “His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad,” was published in 1996.

• September 2, 1911 Romare Bearden, artist and author, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1935, Bearden earned his Bachelor of Science degree in science and education from New York University. He went on to study at the Arts Students League from 1936 to 1937. From 1942 to 1945, Bearden served in the all-black 372nd Infantry Regiment during World War II. He gave up painting briefly to compose music, co-writing “Sea Breeze” which was recorded by Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie and is considered a jazz classic. During the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, Bearden started experimenting with collages and his work became more representative and overtly social conscious. In 1966, Bearden was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1972 to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1987, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President Ronald Reagan. Bearden co-authored “The Painter’s Mind” (1969) and “Six Black Masters of American Art” (1972). He died March 12, 1988. His works are in the collections of several museums, including the Mint Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. Several books have been written about Bearden and his art, including “Romare Bearden: His Life and Art” (1990) and “The Art of Romare Bearden” (2003).

• September 2, 1928 Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silver, hall of fame jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, was born in Norwalk, Connecticut. Silver began his career as a tenor saxophonist, but later switched to the piano. He was discovered in 1950 by Stan Getz and moved to New York City in 1951. In 1954, Silver along with Art Blakey formed the Jazz Messengers and in 1955 recorded “Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers.” He also was a member of the Miles Davis All Stars that recorded “Walkin’” (1954). Also in 1954, Silver won the Down Beat New Star Award. Recordings by Silver as leader include “The Stylings of Silver” (1957), “Song for My Father” (1964), “The Continuity of Spirit” (1985), and “Jazz Has a Sense of Humor” (1999). Silver was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1995, inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 2005 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave him its President’s Merit Award. His autobiography, “Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver,” was published in 2006.

• September 2, 1941, John R. Thompson, Jr., hall of fame basketball coach and the first African American head coach to win a NCAA Division I Championship, was born in Washington, D.C. Thompson played college basketball at Providence College, where he led them to the 1963 NIT Championship and was a 1964 All-American. At the time of his graduation, he was Providence’s all-time leading scorer. Thompson played two years in the NBA for the Boston Celtics, retiring in 1966. After retiring, Thompson coached high school basketball from 1966 to 1971. In 1972, he was hired to coach Georgetown University and over the next 27 years led them to 596 wins and 239 losses, including three NCAA Tournament Final Four appearances and the 1984 championship. Thompson resigned the position in 1999 and that same year was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Thompson currently serves as a commentator for professional and college basketball games and is on the Board of Directors of Nike.

• September 2, 1943 Joe Simon, hall of fame rhythm and blues singer, was born in Simmesport, Louisiana. Simon began singing in church and in the late 1950s joined the Golden West Gospel Singers. The group turned secular and in 1959 recorded “Little Island Girl” as the Golden Tones. In 1964, Simon recorded his debut solo single, “My Adorable One.” He followed that with a number of hits, including “The Chokin’ Kind” (1969), which won him the 1970 Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, “Drowning In The Sea of Love” (1971), “Power of Love” (1972), and “Get Down, Get Down (Get On The Floor)” (1975). In the late 1970s, Simon decided to devote his talent and life to Christianity and in the late 1990s released the gospel album “This Story Must Be Told.” In 1999, Simon was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

• September 2, 1946 William Everett “Billy” Preston, rhythm and blues singer and musician, was born in Houston, Texas. Preston began playing the piano at three and by the age of ten was performing in the bands of gospel greats Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, and Andrae Crouch. At the age of 12, he appeared in the film “St. Louis Blues.” During the 1960s, he performed with Little Richard and Ray Charles. In 1965, Preston released his debut solo album, “The Most Exciting Organ Ever,” and in 1972 he released “Outa-Space” which sold more than one million copies and won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. Other hits from Preston include “Will It Go Round in Circles” (1972), “Space Race” (1973), “Nothing from Nothing” (1974), and “With You I’m Born Again” (1980). Preston also played keyboards for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and was often referred to as “the Fifth Beatle.” Preston died June 6, 2006.

• September 2, 1948 Nathaniel “Tiny” Archibald, hall of fame basketball player, was born in The Bronx, New York. Archibald played college basketball at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) from 1967 to 1970. He was selected in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals. Over his 14 season professional career, Archibald was a six-time All-Star and in 1973 led the NBA in scoring and assists, the only player to ever lead the league in both categories in the same season. Archibald retired in 1984 and in 1991 was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Archibald earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education from UTEP in 1974 and his Master of Arts degree in adult education from Fordham University in 1990. He is now pursuing a doctorate degree. During his NBA days, he would return to New York City during the off-season to run clinics and buy equipment for underprivileged youth. He currently works in the NBA community relations department.

• September 2, 1955 Pamela Gordon, the first female Premier of Bermuda, was born in Hamilton, Bermuda. Gordon earned her college degree in commerce from Queen’s University. In 1990, she won a seat in the Bermuda Senate and in 1992 was appointed Minister of Youth Development and later served as Minister of Environment, Panning and Recreation. On March 27, 1997, Gordon was sworn in as Premier of Bermuda, making her the first woman and the youngest person to hold that post. She held the post for one term.

• September 2, 1960 Eric Demetric Dickerson, hall of fame football player, was born in Sealy, Texas. Dickerson played college football at Southern Methodist University and was an All-American in 1981 and 1982. He was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1983 NFL Draft. That year, he established rookie records for most rushing attempts, most rushing yards, and most touchdowns and won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. The next year, he rushed for 2,105 yards, the most yards gained in a single season in NFL history. Over his 11 season professional career, Dickerson was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and 1986 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Dickerson retired in 1993 and in 1999 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dickerson currently runs a sports memorabilia company.

• September 2, 1965 Lennox Claudius Lewis, hall of fame boxer, was born in London, England, but raised in Ontario, Canada. Lewis was a dominant amateur boxer and in 1983 won the World Amateur Junior Championship. In 1988, he won the super heavyweight boxing Gold medal at the Seoul Olympic Games. After the Olympics, Lewis turned professional and in 1990 won the European heavyweight title, in 1991 the British heavyweight title, and in 1992 the Commonwealth heavyweight title. In 1993, Lewis won the WBC Heavyweight Championship, making him the first world heavyweight titleholder from Britain in the 20th century, and in 1999 he became the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World. That year, he was also voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Lewis retired from boxing in 2003 with a record of 41 wins, 2 losses, and 1 draw. In 2008, Lewis was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and in 2009 he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2011, Lewis was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.

• September 2, 1975 Joseph W. Hatchett was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court, making him the first African American Supreme Court justice in the South in the 20th century. Hatchett was born September 17, 1932 in Clearwater, Florida. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Florida A&M University in 1954. Because the law schools in Florida were segregated, Hatchett attended Howard University Law School where he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree with honors in 1959. From 1960 to 1966, he worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In 1979, Hatchett resigned from the Florida Supreme Court to accept an appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the first African American to be appointed to that court. He remained on that court until 1999 and served as chief justice from 1996 to 1999. He now works in private practice.

• September 2, 1983 Arthur Huff Fauset, educator, anthropologist, and author, died. Fauset was born January 20, 1899 in Flemington, New Jersey. He earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 1921 and 1924, respectively. Fauset was discouraged from teaching at the university level because of his race. Therefore, he began teaching and later became principal of an elementary school. During his 20 years as principal, he fought for better working conditions for teachers and civil rights for blacks and other disadvantaged people. In 1942, Fauset earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1944, he published “Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North.” Using Fauset’s work as a starting point, a new collection of essays, “The New Black Gods,” offering fresh ideas for understanding the religious expressions of African Americans was published in 2009. Fauset also authored “America: Red, White, Black, Yellow” in 1969 and “Sojourner Truth: God’s Faithful Pilgrim” in 1971.

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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.