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Today in Black History, 9/27/2012

• September 27, 1827 Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American to serve in the United States Senate, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Revels was ordained an African Methodist Episcopal minister in 1845 and in 1846 was given a pastorship in Natchez, Mississippi. Revels was elected an alderman in Natchez in 1868 and elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 1869. At that time the state legislature elected U.S. Senators and Revels was elected to finish the term of one of the state’s seats left vacant since the Civil War. On February 25, 1870, he took the seat in the U.S. Senate where he served until he resigned on March 3, 1871, two months before the end of his term, to become the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) where he served until his retirement in 1882. Revels died January 16, 1901.

• September 27, 1862 The 1st Louisiana Native Guard, one of the first all-black regiments to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War and made up of “free men of color” from New Orleans, was organized. The regiment played a prominent role in the Siege of Port Hudson. In June, 1863, the regiment was dissolved and folded into the Corps d’Afrique and in April, 1864 the Corps d’Afrique was dissolved and its members joined the 73rd and 74th Regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops of the Union Army. By the end of the war, 175,000 African Americans had served in the U.S. Colored Troops. “The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War” was published in 1995.

• September 27, 1924 Earl Rudolph “Bud” Powell, hall of fame jazz pianist, was born in New York City. At an early age, Powell learned classical piano but by eight became interested in jazz and by 15 was playing in his brother’s band. His debut recording was with Cootie Williams’ band in 1944. In 1947, he made his debut recording as a leader with the album “Bud Powell Trio.” Other albums by Powell include “The Amazing Bud Powell” (1951), “Blues in the Closet” (1956), and “Bud Powell in Paris” (1963). Many people referred to Powell as “the Charlie Parker of the piano.” Powell suffered from mental illness throughout his later life and died July 31, 1966. That same year, he was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. His biography, “Dance of the Infidels: A Portrait of Bud Powell,” was published in 1986 and was the basis for the movie “Round Midnight (1986).

• September 27, 1933 Francis Gregory Alan Morris, television and movie actor, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Morris began his acting career in the early 1960s with guest appearances on television shows such as “The Twilight Zone” and “Ben Casey.” In September, 1966, he was cast in his most memorable role as the electronics expert in “Mission: Impossible.” After that series was cancelled in March, 1973, Morris continued to appear in movies and make guest television appearances until he was cast in the television series “Vega$” in 1978. That series aired until 1981. Morris died August 27, 1996.

• September 27, 1936 Donald Cortez Cornelius, television show host and producer, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Cornelius joined the United States Marine Corps in 1954 and served 18 months in Korea. After being honorably discharged, he worked at various jobs before joining a Chicago local television station as host of “A Black’s View of the News” in 1967. In 1970, he launched “Soul Train” as a daily show on another Chicago local television station. The next year, the show became nationally syndicated with Johnson Products Co. as its major sponsor, making Cornelius the first African American to produce, host and own his own show and Johnson Products the first black-owned company to sponsor a national weekly TV show. Cornelius hosted the show until 1993 and was instrumental in offering wider exposure to black artists such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson. Cornelius died February 1, 2012.

• September 27, 1966 Stephanie Diana Wilson, the second African American woman (after Mae Jemison) to go into space, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Wilson earned her Bachelor of Science degree in engineering science from Harvard University in 1988 and her Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1992. She was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as an astronaut candidate in 1996. After completing two years of training and evaluation, she qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. Wilson has flown three shuttle missions, STS-121 (July 4 - 17, 2006), STS 120 (October 23 - November 7, 2007), and STS-131 (April 5 - 20, 2010), and logged over 42 days in space.

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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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