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Today in Black History, 07/29/2015 | Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

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July 29, 1794 Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was dedicated. Mother Bethel was founded by Richard Allen and organized by African American members of St. George’s Methodist Church who walked out due to racial segregation in their worship services. The current structure was built in 1890 and is the oldest church property in the United States continuously owned by African Americans. Bishop Allen, his wife Sarah, and Bishop Morris Brown are entombed in the current structure. The church today has approximately 700 members. Mother Bethel was designated a National Historic Landmark March 16, 1972 and a Pennsylvania Historical Marker was dedicated in 1991.

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Today in Black History 07/21/2015 | The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs

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 July 21, 1896 The National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs was founded in Washington, D.C. by the merger of the National Federation of Afro-American Women, the Women’s Era Clubs of Boston, and the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C. Their original mission was, “to furnish evidence of the moral, mental and material progress made by people of color through the efforts of our women.” Membership had grown to 300,000 nationwide by 1918. Today, their objectives include working for the economic, moral, religious and social welfare of women and youth, protecting the rights of women and youth, raising the standard and quality of life in home and family, enforcement of civil and political rights for African Americans and all citizens, promoting the education of women and youth, obtaining for African American women the opportunity of reaching the highest levels in all fields of human endeavor, and promoting inter-racial understanding so that justice and goodwill may prevail among all people.

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Today in Black History, 07/20/2015 | The first National Conference on Black Power

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July 20, 1967 The first National Conference on Black Power convened in Newark, New Jersey with Nathan Wright, Jr. as the chairman. More than 1,000 delegates representing 286 organizations and institutions from 126 cities gathered to discuss the most pressing African American issues of the day. A Black Power Manifesto was officially adopted which condemned “neo-colonialist control” of Black populations worldwide and called for the circulation of a “philosophy of Blackness” that would unite and direct the oppressed in common cause.
 

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Today in Black History, 07/19/2015 | Patricia Roberts Harris

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July 19, 1979 Patricia Roberts Harris became the first African American woman to hold a post in a presidential cabinet when President Jimmy Carter appointed her Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Harris was born May 31, 1924 in Mattoon, Illinois. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Howard University in 1945 and graduated at the top of her class from the George Washington University National Law Center in 1960. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her Ambassador to Luxembourg May 19, 1965, the first African American to serve as a United States Ambassador, where she served until 1967. Harris was named dean of Howard University’s School of Law in 1969, a position she held until 1972. President Carter appointed Harris Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977 and on this date she became Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and served until 1981. She was appointed a professor at the George Washington University National Law Center in 1982, a position she held until her death March 23, 1985. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2000 and she was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003. The Patricia R. Harris Education Center in Washington, D. C. is named in her honor.
 

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Today in Black History 07/18/2015 | Nelson Mandela

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July 18, 1918 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first South African president elected in a fully representative democratic election, was born in Mvezo, South Africa. Mandela enrolled at Fort Hare University but was expelled because of his involvement in a Students’ Representative Council boycott against university policies. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and earned his law degree at the University of South Africa in 1942. Mandela became active in politics after 1948, playing a prominent role in the African National Congress’ 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He became leader of the ANC’s armed wing in 1961 and coordinated sabotage campaigns against military and government targets. With the help of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, the South African government arrested Mandela in 1962 and he spent the next 27 years in prison. Following his release from prison in 1990, Mandela returned to the leadership of the ANC and between 1990 and 1994 led the party’s negotiations with the government for multi-racial elections. Mandela was elected President of South Africa in 1994 in the country’s first multi-racial election. He served as president until his retirement in 1999. He was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2004 and 2005 and one of the 100 Most Influential People of the Century. Mandela founded The Elders in 2007, a group of world leaders who contribute their wisdom and independent leadership to address the world’s toughest problems. He was also active in the fight against AIDS. Mandela received more than 250 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize December 10, 1993 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush July 9, 2002. The United Nations General Assembly announced in 2009 that July 18 would be known as Mandela Day to mark his contribution to world freedom. His autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” was published in 1994 and “Conversations with Myself,” a collection of his writings and interviews, was published in 2010. Mandela died December 5, 2013. His name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

 

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Today in Black History 07/17/2015 | Robert Clifton Weaver

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 July 17, 1997 Robert Clifton Weaver, the first African American to hold a cabinet level position in a United States President’s administration, died. Weaver was born December 29, 1907 in Washington, D. C. He attended Harvard University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in economics in 1929, his Master of Arts degree in 1931, and his Ph. D. in 1934. Weaver was an expert on urban housing and wrote several books on the subject, including “The Negro Ghetto” (1948) and “The Urban Complex: Human Values in Urban Life” (1964). Weaver was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson the first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1966, a position he held until 1968. After leaving the cabinet post, Weaver became president of Baruch College in 1969 and professor of urban affairs at Hunter College in 1970, from which he retired in 1978. Weaver was awarded the 1962 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal and the HUD headquarters building was renamed the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building in 2000. Robert Clifton Weaver Way in northeast Washington, D. C. is also named in his honor.

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Today in Black History 07/16/2015 | Ida B. Wells

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July 16, 1862 Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, journalist and civil and women’s rights activist, was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Wells was freed at the end of the Civil War. She attended Rust College but was expelled for her rebellious behavior after confronting the president of the college. She became co-owner and editor of Free Speech and Headlight, an anti-segregationist newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1889. In 1891, a grocery store owned by three Black men was perceived to be taking away a substantial amount of business from a White owned grocery store across the street. The Black owned store was invaded by a mob resulting in three White men being shot and injured. The three Black owners, who were friends of Wells, were jailed and subsequently lynched. The murder of her friends sparked Wells’ interest in investigative journalism about lynching and becoming the leader of the anti-lynching crusade. She published “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all Its Phases” in 1892 and “A Red Record, 1892-1894,” which documented lynchings since the Emancipation Proclamation, in 1895. Wells and other Black leaders organized a boycott of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois to protest lynchings in the South. Wells was also significantly involved in the founding of the National Association of Colored Women, the National Afro-American Council, which later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Women’s Era Club, which was renamed the Ida B. Wells Club. She spent the latter 30 years of her life working on urban reform in Chicago. Wells died March 25, 1931. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 1990. “Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells” was published in 1970. Her life is also the subject of a musical drama, “Constant Star,” which debuted in 2006. The Ida B. Wells Housing Project in Chicago is named in her honor. Wells-Barnett’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. 

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Today in Black History 07/15/2015 | All-Negro Comics

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July 15, 1947
All-Negro Comics, the first known comic magazine written and drawn by African American writers and artists, was copyrighted. The only known issue of the magazine was a 48-page, standard sized comic book with a glossy color cover and newsprint interior and a June, 1947 issue date. The magazine sold for 15 cents. Time magazine referred to the magazine as “the first to be drawn by Negro artists and peopled entirely by Negro characters.”

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Today in Black History 07/14/2015 | Sarah E. Goode

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July 14, 1885 Sarah E. Goode became the first African American woman to receive a patent when she was granted patent number 322,177 for her invention of the cabinet bed, what we today refer to as a hide-away bed. When the bed was folded up, it was a fully functional desk with spaces for storage. It allowed people who lived in small spaces to use their space efficiently. Goode was born enslaved around 1850. She gained her freedom after the Civil War and moved to Chicago, Illinois where she opened a furniture store. Little is known of her life after receiving the patent other than she died April 8, 1905.

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Today in Black History 07/13/2015 | Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka

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July 13, 1934 Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Soyinka, writer, poet, playwright and political activist, was born in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Soyinka studied at the University College, Ibadan from 1952 to 1954 and the University of Leeds where he received a first class honours degree in English literature in 1957. Soyinka returned to Nigeria and began to play an active role in Nigerian politics. During the Nigerian Civil War, he was arrested in 1967 and put into solitary confinement for his attempts to broker a peace. While in prison, he wrote poetry on tissue paper which was published in the collection “Poems from Prison” (1969). After the end of the civil war, Soyinka was released from prison after serving 22 months. Soyinka has been a consistent and outspoken critic of Nigerian military dictators and of political tyranny worldwide. He was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first African to be so honored, as one “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence.” He was designated United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Goodwill Ambassador for the promotion of African culture, human rights, freedom of expression, media and communications in 1994. Soyinka was professor of comparative literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University from 1975 to 1999. A prolific writer, he has written many plays, collections of poetry, novels, and essays. His most recent book of essays, “Of Africa,” was published in 2012. His memoir, “You Must Set Forth at Dawn,” was published in 2006. Soyinka has received honorary doctorate degrees from Harvard and Princeton Universities. He received the 2014 International Humanist Award.

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Today in Black History 07/12/2015 | Barbara Jordan, First African American woman delivers keynote at the Democratic National Convention

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July 12, 1976 Barbara Charlene Jordan became the first African American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Her speech is considered by many historians to be the best convention keynote speech in modern history. Jordan was born February 21, 1936 in Houston, Texas. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Texas Southern University in 1956 and her Juris Doctor degree from Boston University in 1959. Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas State Senate in 1966 and served until 1972. That year, she became the first African American woman to be elected to the United States House of Representatives from a southern state. During her time in Congress, she supported the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 that required financial institutions to lend and make services available to underserved poor and minority communities and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Jordan retired from politics in 1979 and became adjunct professor at the University of Texas. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990 and was awarded the 1992 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President William J. Clinton August 8, 1994 and the United States Military Academy’s Sylvanus Thayer Award in 1995, the second female recipient. Jordan died January 17, 1996. She was the first Black woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. A statue of Jordan was unveiled at the University of Texas in Austin April 24, 2009 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2011. Her biography, “Barbara Jordan: American Hero,” was published in 2000 and a collection of her speeches, “Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder,” was published in 2007. Jordan’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 07/11/2015 | Martin Luther King Jr. was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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July 11, 1977 Martin Luther King Jr. was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Jimmy Carter. King was born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He entered Morehouse College at 15 and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1948. He then earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1951 and his Ph. D. from Boston University in 1955. King led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King was the 1957 recipient of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. On August 28, 1963, King led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. He became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work to end segregation and discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. King was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1979. The U. S. Department of Interior designated his boyhood home and several nearby buildings the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site October 10, 1980. President Ronald W. Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King November 2, 1983 and Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time January 17, 2000. A memorial to King on the National Mall in Washington, D. C. opened October 16, 2011. “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” was published in 1998. King’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History 07/10/2015 | Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr.

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July 10, 1943 Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr., hall of fame tennis player and civil rights activist, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Ashe became the first Black player selected to the United States Davis Cup team in 1963 and won the 1965 National Collegiate Athletic Association tennis singles title. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1966. Ashe won the U. S. Amateur Championship and the U. S. Open in 1968, the only player to ever win both in the same year. He turned professional in 1969 and won the 1970 Australian Open and 1975 Wimbledon. Ashe retired in 1980 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985. Ashe died February 6, 1993. His autobiography, “Days of Grace,” was published immediately following his death. Posthumously, Ashe received many honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented by President William J. Clinton May 5, 1993, a statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond unveiled July 10, 1996, a commemorative postage stamp issued by the United States Postal Service in 2005, and the naming of the ESPN Arthur Ashe Courage Award given to a member of the sports world who best exhibits courage in the face of adversity. The main stadium at the United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center was renamed in his honor. Ashe’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. “Arthur Ashe: Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era” was published in 2014.

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Today in Black History 07/09/2015 | The Fourteenth Amendment

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July 9, 1868 The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted. The amendment provided a broad definition of citizenship, overruling the decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford which held that Black people could not be citizens of the United States. The amendment’s Equal Protection Clause required states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within their jurisdictions. Despite this clause, the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson ruled that the states could impose segregation as long as they provided similar facilities, the basis for the “separate but equal” doctrine.

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Today in Black History 07/08/2015 | The Clotida

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July 8, 1860 
The Clotilda, the last known United States slave ship to bring enslaved Africans to the U. S., entered the Mississippi Sound and anchored off Point-of-Pines in Grand Bay, Alabama with 110 African captives. The United States had banned the importation of enslaved people January 1, 1808 but over the next 52 years thousands of enslaved Africans were imported illegally. The Clotilda had traded for the Africans at Ouidah, Dahomey (now Benin) and made the 45 day voyage back to the U. S. One of the enslaved Africans was Oluale Kossola, later named Kossola Cudjo Lewis. Lewis was freed during the Civil War and he and other formerly enslaved Africans formed Africa Town three miles north of Mobile, Alabama in 1866. When Lewis died July 26, 1935, he was the last survivor of the last known slave ship to enter the United States. Africa Town was added to the National Register of Historic Places December 4, 2012. The story of the Clotilda and the enslaved Africans is told in “Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America” (2007). 

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Today in Black History 07/07/2015 | Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige

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July 7, 1906 Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Mobile, Alabama. Paige was committed at 12 to the Industrial School for Negro Children where he developed his pitching skills. He was signed by the Chattanooga White Sox of the Negro leagues in 1926. In addition to the Negro leagues, Paige pitched in Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. He also pitched against many White major league stars during that time, including hall of famers Dizzy Dean, who called him “the pitcher with the greatest stuff I ever saw”, and Joe DiMaggio, who said that he was the best pitcher he had ever faced. During World War II, when many of the best major league players were in the service, Paige was the highest paid athlete in the world. In 1948, at 42, Paige became the oldest player ever to debut in the major leagues where he pitched until 1953. On September 25, 1965, at 59, he pitched three innings of shutout baseball against the Boston Red Sox. He finally quit pitching in 1967. Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the first player from the Negro leagues to be inducted. A made-for-television movie, “Don’t Look Back”, of his life was aired in 1981. Paige died June 8, 1982. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2000. A statue of Paige was unveiled July 28, 2006 at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York commemorating the contributions of the Negro leagues to baseball. His biography, “The Life and Times of an American Legend”, was published in 2009. Another biography, “If You Were Only White”, was published in 2012. 
 

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Today in Black History 07/06/2015 | Kevin Hart

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July 6, 1979 Kevin Darnell Hart, comedian, actor and producer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hart began his professional career as a stand-up comic performing in clubs along the East Coast. He made his film debut in “Paper Soldiers” in 2003. Other films in which he has appeared include “The 40 Year Old Virgin” (2005), “Little Flockers” (2010), “Ride Along” (2014), and “Get Hard” (2015). Hart has released three comedy albums, “I’m a Grown Little Man” (2008), “Seriously Funny” (2010), and “Laugh at My Pain” (2011). He co-created the television show “Real Husbands of Hollywood” in 2013 and continues to star in the show. Hart was included on Time magazine’s 2015 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the Word.

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Today in Black History 07/05/2015 | Naomi Cornelia Long Madgett

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July 5, 1923 Naomi Cornelia Long Madgett, Poet Laureate of Detroit, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Madgett began writing at an early age and published her first book of poems, “Songs to a Phantom Nightingale,” at 17. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia State College (now University) in 1945 and her Master of Education degree from Wayne State University in 1955.. Madgett moved to Detroit, Michigan and became a teacher in the Detroit Public School System where she introduced the first course in African American literature.  In 1956, her poem “Midway,” from the book of poetry “One and the Many,” attracted wide attention for its portrayal of Black people’s struggles and victories in a time when racism was prevalent. Madgett became a professor of English at Eastern Michigan University in 1968 and taught there until her retirement in 1984. Other books by Madgett include “Star by Star: Poems” (1965), “Octavia and Other Poems” (1988), “Connected Islands: New and Selected Poems” (2004), and her autobiography “Pilgrim Journey: Autobiography” (2006).  Madgett has received honorary doctorate degrees from Siena Heights University, Loyola University-Chicago, and Michigan State University.  The annual Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award was established in 1993 to recognize an outstanding book-length manuscript by an African American poet. Madgett was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2002. She is currently senior editor of Lotus Press. 

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Today in Black History 07/04/2015 | Judge Damon Jerome Keith

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July 4, 1922 Damon Jerome Keith, Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Keith earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from West Virginia State College in 1943, his Juris Doctor degree from the Howard University School of Law in 1949, and his Master of Laws degree from Wayne State University Law School in 1956. He was elected co-chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in 1964 and was appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. Keith was appointed to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. One of Keith’s most notable cases was United States v. Sinclair in 1971 where he ruled that U. S. Attorney General John Mitchell had to disclose the transcripts of illegal wiretaps that he had authorized without first obtaining a search warrant. Former law clerks of Keith include former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, the first African American woman to gain tenure at Harvard Law School Lani Guinier, and U. S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Eric Clay. The Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School is named in his honor. “Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith” was published in 2013. 

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Today in Black History 07/03/2015 | “The Hazel Scott Show”

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July 3, 1950 “The Hazel Scott Show” premiered on the now defunct DuMont Television Network, the first network television series to be hosted by a Black woman. The show was a 15 minute musical that aired on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It was well received by critics and had decent ratings. However, the show was cancelled in September, 1950 when Scott was accused of being a Communist sympathizer. Scott was born June 11, 1920 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago but raised in New York City. She performed extensively on the piano as a child and received further training at the Julliard School of Music. While still in high school, she hosted her own radio show. Scott starred at the opening of Barney Josephson’s Café Society Uptown in New York City in 1940 and soon her piano pyrotechnics were acclaimed throughout the United States and Europe. She was called the “darling of café society.” Scott made her Broadway debut in 1942 in “Sing Out the News.” She appeared in a number of films, including “I Dood It” (1943), “Broadway Rhythm” (1944), and “Rhapsody in Blue” (1945). She was one of the first Black entertainers to refuse to play before segregated audiences. Albums released by Scott include “Hazel Scott’s Late Show” (1953) and “Relaxed Piano Mood” (1955). Scott died October 2, 1981. Her biography, “Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist, From Café Society to Hollywood to HUAC,” was published in 2008. 

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