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Today in Black History, 9/24/2012

• September 24, 1825 Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, abolitionist and poet, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Harper had her first volume of poems, “Forest Leaves,” published in 1845 and her second book, “Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects,” published in 1854. Other works by Harper include “Poems” (1857), “The Martyr of Alabama and Other Poems” (1892), and “Atlanta Offering” (1895). In 1853, Harper joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and became a traveling lecturer for the group. She was also a strong supporter of prohibition and women’s suffrage. In 1892, Harper published “Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted,” one of the first novels by an African American woman. In 1897, she was elected vice president of the National Association of Colored Women. Harper died February 22, 1911.

• September 24, 1894 Edward Franklin Frazier, sociologist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Frazier earned his Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude from Howard University in 1916, his Master of Arts degree in sociology from Clark University in 1920, and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1931. In 1922, Frazier accepted a position as the director of the Atlanta School of Social Work at Morehouse College. However, in 1927 he published the article “The Pathology of Race Prejudice” which argued that racial prejudice was analogous to insanity which stirred such strong reactions that he was removed from his position. In 1948, Frazier was elected the first African American president of the American Sociological Society. Frazier’s 1957 work “Black Bourgeoisie” was a critical examination of the adoption by middle-class African Americans of a subservient conservatism that derived from the cultural style and traditional religion of the white middle-class. His other works include “The Negro Family in the United States” (1939) and “The Negro Church in America” (1963). Frazier died May 17, 1962. In 1995, the E. Franklin Frazier Center for Social Work Research was established at Howard University.

• September 24, 1894 Mary Jane Patterson, the first black woman to graduate from an established college with a four year degree, died. Patterson was born enslaved September 12, 1840 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her family gained their freedom in 1852 and moved to Oberlin, Ohio in 1856. Patterson enrolled in Oberlin College in 1857 and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with highest honors in 1861. After graduation, Patterson taught at various schools, including the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia and the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (later renamed Dunbar High School) in Washington, D.C. Patterson served as the latter school’s first black principal from 1871 to 1872 and was reappointed to the position from 1873 to 1884. During her administration, the school grew from 50 to 172 students. Patterson continued to teach at the school until her death.

• September 24, 1916 William H. Thompson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Thompson was born October 3, 1872 in Paterson, New Jersey. By June 30, 1898, Thompson was serving as a private in Troop G of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, an all-black unit of the United States Army, during the Spanish-American War. On that day, American forces aboard the USS Florida near Tayacoba, Cuba dispatched a small landing party to provide reconnaissance on Spanish outposts in the area. The party was discovered and came under heavy fire, sinking their boats and leaving them stranded on shore. The men aboard the Florida launched four rescue attempts but were forced to retreat under heavy fire each time. The fifth attempt, manned by Thompson and three other privates, found and rescued the surviving members of the landing party. On June 23, 1899, Thompson and the other three rescuers were awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Not much else is known of Thompson’s life.

• September 24, 1923 Theodore “Fats” Navarro, hall of fame jazz trumpeter, was born in Key West, Florida. Navarro began playing the piano at the age of six and the trumpet at 13. In 1946, he moved to New York City and his career took off. He played in the bands of Billy Eckstine, Benny Goodman, and Lionel Hampton. He also recorded with Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, and Kenny Clarke. Navarro died July 7, 1950 and was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1982. “The Music and Life of Theodore “Fats” Navarro: Infatuation” was published in 2009.

• September 24, 1929 John Wallace Carter, hall of fame jazz clarinetist and educator, was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Carter started playing the clarinet at the age of 12. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music education from Lincoln University in 1949 and his Master of Arts degree in music education from the University of Colorado in 1956. Carter taught in the Fort Worth Public School System from 1949 to 1961 and the Los Angeles Public School System from 1961 to 1982. Between 1982 and 1990, Carter composed and recorded “Roots and Folklore: Episodes in the Development of American Folk Music,” a five album piece focused on African Americans and their history. Carter died March 31, 1991 and was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame that same year.

• September 24, 1931 Cardiss H. Collins, the first African American woman to represent the Midwest in Congress, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Collins was elected to the United States House of Representatives in a 1973 special election to replace her husband who had died in an airline accident. For nearly a decade, she was the only black woman serving in Congress. During her time in Congress, Collins was focused on establishing universal health insurance, providing for gender equality in college sports, and reforming federal child care facilities. In 1979, she was elected president of the Congressional Black Caucus. Collins retired from Congress in 1997. In 2004, Collins was selected by Nielsen Media Research to head a task force examining the representation of African Americans in television rating samples. The United States Postal Service’s Cardiss Collins Processing and Distribution Center in Chicago, Illinois is named in her honor.

• September 24, 1941 John Mackey, hall of fame football player, was born in Long Island, New York. Mackey played college football at Syracuse University. He was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 1963 NFL Draft and by his third year in the league had revolutionized the position of tight end. Mackey was forced to retire in 1972 due to injuries but over his ten season professional career, he was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. After retirement, Mackey became the first president of the NFL Players Association where he helped organize a strike that earned players $11 million in pensions and other benefits. In 2000, the Nassau County Sports Commission created the John Mackey Award which annually honors the top Division 1 collegiate tight end and in 2007 Syracuse University retired his number 88 uniform number. As a result of contact during his football career, Mackey suffered from dementia. In response, the NFL and the NFL Players Association created the “88 Plan,” named after Mackey’s number. It provides $88,000 per year for nursing home care and up to $50,000 annually for adult day care for retired professional football players. Mackey died July 6, 2011.

• September 24, 1946 Charles Edward “Mean Joe” Greene, hall of fame football player, was born in Temple, Texas. Greene played college football at North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) and was a 1968 All-American. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1969 NFL Draft and over his 13 season professional career was the 1969 Defensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 and 1974, a ten-time Pro Bowl selection, and four-time Super Bowl champion. Many consider him one of the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history. Greene also appeared in several movies and commercials, most famously the 1979 Coke commercial which was listed as one of the top ten commercials of all time by TV Guide. After retiring in 1981, he spent 16 years as an assistant coach with several NFL teams. He currently serves as special assistant for player personnel for the Steelers. Greene was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

• September 24, 1954 Patrick Kelly, fashion designer, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Kelly initially studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York City but in 1979 moved to Paris, France. In 1985, he created Patrick Kelly Paris and began making outfits for Benetton and upscale Paris boutiques. In 1987, Kelly signed a $5 million contract to create a line of clothing for Warnaco which gave him international recognition. In 1986, Time Magazine described his clothing as “fitted, funny and a little goofy” and in 1988 the Washington Post said “Patrick Kelly has a witty way with fashion.” Kelly was proud of his heritage and upbringing as an African American in Mississippi and it was reflected in his work. His clientele included Bette Davis, Grace Jones, and Jessye Norman. In 1988, Kelly became the first American voted in as a member of the Chambre Syndicale, an elite organization of designers based in Paris. Kelly died January 1, 1990. In September, 2004, his work was the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

• September 24, 1965 Executive Order 11246 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson requiring equal employment opportunity. The order prohibited federal contractors and federally assisted contractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Contractors were also required to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants were employed, and that employees were treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The order further required contractors to implement affirmative action plans to increase the participation of minorities and women in the workplace if a workforce analysis demonstrated their underrepresentation.

• September 24, 1973 The Republic of Guinea-Bissau declared independence from Portugal. Guinea-Bissau is located in West Africa and is bordered by Senegal to the north, Guinea to the south and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is approximately 14,000 square miles in area and has a population of approximately 1,647,000. Approximately 50% of the population practice Islam, 40% practice indigenous religions, and 10% practice Christianity. The official language is Portuguese but only 14% of the population actually speaks the language. Most of the population speaks Kriol, a Portuguese based Creole language, or other native African languages.

• September 24, 2010 Richard Gilbert “Dick” Griffey, record producer and promoter, died. Griffey was born November 16, 1938 in Nashville, Tennessee. As a teenager, he performed as a drummer in local clubs. After briefly attending Tennessee State University, Griffey enlisted in the United States Navy where he served as a medic. In the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, California where he served as a talent coordinator for the television show “Soul Train.” In 1977, Griffey founded SOLAR Records (Sounds of Los Angeles Records). There he produced a long list of acts, including Shalamar, The Whispers, Lakeside, and Midnight Star.

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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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