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Today in Black History, 9/9/2012

• September 9, 1739 The Stono Rebellion, the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies, began. The rebellion started with about 20 enslaved Africans at the Stono River in the colony of South Carolina. As the group marched south, they were joined by nearly 60 additional enslaved Africans. The Africans killed about 25 whites before encountering a South Carolina militia. In that battle, 20 whites and 44 Africans were killed and the rebellion was ended. In response to the rebellion, the South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Act of 1740 restricting slave assembly, education and movement. It also enacted a 10 year moratorium against importing African slaves and established penalties against slaveholders’ harsh treatment of slaves. The site where the rebellion began was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. “Cry Liberty,” an interpretation of the events of the rebellion, was published in 2010.

• September 9, 1806 Sarah Mapps Douglass, abolitionist, teacher and lecturer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Douglass’ family was prosperous and among several free black families who formed the core of Philadelphia’s abolitionist movement. She was educated at home by private tutors. Around 1827, Douglass established a school for black children. In 1837, Douglass served on the ten member committee for the Antislavery Convention of American Women. This was the first national convention of antislavery women to integrate black and white members. Douglass also served as librarian, corresponding secretary, and on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Female Antislavery Society. In 1853, she took over the girls’ preparatory department at the Philadelphia Institute for Colored Youth, offering courses in literature, science, and anatomy. She served at the institute until 1877. During this time, she also acquired basic medical training at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and at Pennsylvania Medical University. After the Civil War, Douglass became a leader in the Pennsylvania branch of the American Freedman’s Aid Commission which worked to provide services to the formerly enslaved in the south. Douglass died September 8, 1882.

• September 9, 1817 Paul Cuffee, businessman and abolitionist, died. Cuffee was born January 17, 1759 on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts. At the age of 16, he signed on to a whaling ship and by the time he was 21 owned a fleet of ships and a 116 acre farm. As Cuffee became more successful, he invested in more ships and made a sizable fortune. Cuffee believed that the emigration of blacks to colonies outside the United States was a viable solution to the race problem in America and in 1811 launched his first expedition to Sierra Leone. While in Sierra Leone, he helped to establish the Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, a trading organization run by blacks. Cuffee’s biographies include “Paul Cuffee: Black America and the African Return” published in 1972 and “Paul Cuffee: Black Entrepreneur and Pan-Africanist” published in 1988. He is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on March 4.

• September 9, 1914 Marjorie Lee Browne, educator and one of the first African American women to earn a doctorate in mathematics, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Browne earned her Bachelor of Science degree cum laude in mathematics from Howard University in 1935 and her Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1939. Browne earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Michigan in 1949. She then joined the faculty of North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) where she taught and researched for 30 years. In 1960, she wrote a grant that resulted in the IBM Corporation providing NCCU with a computer, one of the first computers in academic computing. Browne also established summer institutes to provide continuing education in mathematics for high school teachers and in 1974 was the first recipient of the W. W. Rankin Memorial Award for Excellence in Mathematics Education. Browne died October 19, 1979 and in 2001 the University of Michigan established the Dr. Marjorie Lee Browne Colloquium. NCCU annually offers the Marjorie Lee Brown Scholarship to students majoring in mathematics.

• September 9, 1915 The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History was organized in Chicago, Illinois by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland. The official mission of the organization is “to promote research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about black life, history, and culture to the global community.” In 1926, the organization created Negro History Week and in 1976 it was extended to the entire month of February and called Black History Month. In 1973, the organization changed its name to the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. ASALH is a membership organization with over 25 branches. It publishes The Journal of African American History and the Black History Bulletin.

• September 9, 1927 Elvin Ray Jones, hall of fame jazz drummer, was born in Pontiac, Michigan. By the age of two, Jones had a fascination with drums and in high school he joined the marching band. Jones served in the United States Army from 1946 to 1949 and after his discharge began his professional career. Jones moved to New York City in 1955 and recorded with several groups, including Miles Davis on “Blue Moods” (1955) and “Sketches of Spain” (1959). From 1960 to 1966, Jones was a member of the John Coltrane Quartet and appeared on a number of albums, including “My Favorite Things” (1960) and “A Love Supreme” (1964). After leaving Coltrane, Jones led several small groups and recorded a number of albums, including “Puttin’ It Together” (1968), “Live at The Lighthouse” (1972), “Love and Peace” (1982), and “The Truth” (1999). Jones was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1991, the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1998, and designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003. Jones taught regularly, often took part in clinics, played in schools, and gave free concerts in prisons. His lessons emphasized music history as well as drumming techniques. Jones died May 18, 2004.

• September 9, 1934 Sonia Sanchez, poet and playwright, was born Wilsonia Benita Driver in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1943, Sanchez moved to Harlem, New York to live with her father. In 1955, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Hunter College. Sanchez has authored over a dozen books of poetry, including “Love Poems” (1973), “Homegirls and Handgrenades” (1985), “Does Your House Have Lions” (1997), and “Morning Haiku” (2010), and six plays, including “The Bronx is Next” (1970) and “I’m Black When I’m Singing, I’m Blue when I Ain’t” (1982). She has also edited two anthologies on black literature, “We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans” (1974) and “360 Degrees of Blackness Coming at You” (1999). Sanchez has taught at eight universities and has lectured at over 500 college campuses. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University where she began working in 1977 and held the Laura Carnell chair until her retirement in 1999. In 1969, she was awarded the P. E. N. Writing Award. She also won the National Academy and Arts Award and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award in 1978-1979.

• September 9, 1941 Otis Ray Redding, Jr., hall of fame singer and songwriter, was born in Dawson, Georgia but grew up in Macon, Georgia. Redding sang in the church choir and won the local talent show 15 weeks in a row. In 1960, Redding began to tour the south and in 1962 recorded “These Arms of Mine” which he had written. Between 1964 and 1966, he recorded a number of hits, including “Respect” (1965), “Satisfaction” (1965), and “Try a Little Tenderness” (1966). His biggest hit, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” was recorded three days before his death in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. That recording won the 1968 Grammy Awards for Best R&B Song (songwriting) and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It also was the first posthumous number one single in U.S. chart history. Between 1968 and 1970, three additional albums of material recorded prior to his death were released. In 1993, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. In 1989, Redding was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1994 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 1999 he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lists three of Redding’s recordings, “Shake” (1965), “Try a Little Tenderness,” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” amongst The 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.

• September 9, 2008 Warith Deen Mohammed, Muslim leader and author, died. Mohammed was born Wallace Delaney Muhammad on October 30, 1933 in Hamtramck, Michigan. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Mohammed served as a minister under his father, Elijah Muhammad, in Philadelphia before being excommunicated for denying the divinity of Wallace Ford Muhammad. In 1961, he was sent to federal prison for 14 months for refusing induction into the United States military. After his father’s death in 1975, Mohammed was accepted by the Nation of Islam as its leader. He introduced many reforms intended to bring the organization closer to traditional Islam and renamed it the American Society of Muslims. Mohammed was instrumental in establishing interfaith cooperation with other religious communities, especially Christians and Jews. In 1977, he led the then largest delegation of Muslim Americans on a pilgrimage to the Sacred House in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In 1992, Mohammed was cited for exemplary work in the religion of Islam by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and given The Gold Medal of Recognition, Egypt’s highest and most distinguished religious honor. Mohammed authored a number of books, including “The Man and Woman in Islam” (1976), “Religion on the Line” (1983), and “Life: The Final Battlefield” (2008).

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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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