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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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Today in Black History, 07/02/2015 | The Civil Rights Act of 1964

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July 2, 1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The act outlawed unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and by facilities that served the general public. It invalidated many of the Jim Crow laws in the South. Initial powers of enforcement were weak but they were strengthened in later years. Books that chronicle the times leading up to the passage and the politics involved include “To End All Segregation: The Politics of the Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” (1990) and “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Passage of the Law That Ended Racial Segregation” (1997).

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Today in Black History 07/01/2015 | The Republic of Rwanda

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July 1, 1962 The Republic of Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium. Rwanda is located in Central Africa and is bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, and Burundi to the south. It is approximately 10,170 square miles in size and the capital and largest city is Kigali. Rwanda has a population of approximately 12,013,000 people with 93% Christian. The official languages are Kinyarwanda, French, and English.

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Today in Black History 06/30/2015 | Allensworth

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June 30, 1908 Allen Allensworth founded the town of Allensworth in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley as an all-Black community. It is the only California town founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. By 1914, the town was reported to be 900 acres of deeded land worth more than $112,500. Over the next couple of decades, the town became a ghost town. Parts of it have been preserved as the Colonel Allensworth State Historical Park which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places February 23, 1972. Allen Allensworth was born enslaved April 7, 1842 in Louisville, Kentucky. He escaped slavery by joining the Union Army during the Civil War. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1871 and led several churches in Kentucky. He was the only Black delegate from Kentucky to the Republican National Convention in 1880 and 1884. Allensworth was appointed military chaplain to a unit of Buffalo Soldiers in 1886 and by the time he retired in 1906 had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, the first African American to achieve that rank. After leaving military service, He moved to Los Angeles, California and founded the town of Allensworth. Allensworth died September 14, 1914. Biographies of Allensworth include “Battles and Victories of Allen Allensworth” (1914) and “Out of Darkness: The Story of Allen Allensworth” (1998).

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Today in Black History, 06/29/2015 | The Republic of Seychelles

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June 29, 1976 The Republic of Seychelles gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Seychelles is a 115 island country in the Indian Ocean approximately 932 miles east of mainland Africa. It is approximately 174 square miles in size and the capital and largest city is Victoria. Seychelles has a population of approximately 84,000 people with 93% Christian. The official languages are French, English, and Seychellois Creole.

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Today in Black History, 06/28/2015 | Organization of Afro-American Unity

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June 28, 1964 Malcolm X formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Modeled on the Organization of African Unity, the purpose of the OAAU was to fight for the human rights of African Americans and promote cooperation among Africans and Afro-Americans in the United States. In a memo dated July 2, 1964, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the OAAU as a threat to the national security of the United States. After the death of Malcolm X, dwindling membership led to the collapse of the organization.

 

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Today in Black History, 06/27/2015 | Crystal Bird Fauset

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June 27, 1894 Crystal Bird Fauset, the first African American female state legislator in the United States, was born in Princess Anne, Maryland but raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Fauset worked as field secretary for African American girls at the Young Women’s Christian Association from 1918 to 1926. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University in 1931. Also that year, she founded the Colored Women’s Activities Club for the Democratic National Committee and as a result was appointed director of the Women and Professional Project in the Works Progress Administration. She also served on the Federal Housing Advisory Board in 1935. Fauset was elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1938, the first African American female legislator in the country. During her time in the legislature, she focused on improvements in public health, housing the poor, public relief, and women’s rights in the workplace. Fauset resigned from the Pennsylvania legislature in 1940. She was appointed race relations director at the Office of Civil Defense in 1941 and became a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Black cabinet.” After World War II, Fauset helped found the United Nations Council of Philadelphia which later became the World Affairs Council. She traveled to Africa, India, and the Middle East to support independence leaders during the 1950s. Fauset died March 27, 1965. A Pennsylvania state historical marker was dedicated in her honor in Philadelphia in 1991. 

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Today in Black History 06/26/2015 | Bernard Anthony Harris, Jr.,

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June 26, 1956 Bernard Anthony Harris, Jr., the first African American to walk in space, was born in Temple, Texas. Harris earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Houston in 1978 and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Texas Tech University School of Medicine in 1982. He completed a residency in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in 1985. In 1988, Harris trained as a flight surgeon at the Aerospace School of Medicine and Joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Johnson Space Center as a clinical scientist and flight surgeon. Harris became an astronaut in 1991 and flew on his first space mission in 1993 as a mission specialist. He flew on his second space mission as the payload commander and during that mission became the first African American to walk in space February 9, 1995. In total, Harris logged 437 hours in space and traveled over 7.1 million miles. Harris left NASA in 1996 and founded The Harris Foundation in 1998 “to invest in community-based initiatives to support education, health and wealth. THF supports programs that empower individuals, in particular minorities and other economically and/or socially disadvantaged, to recognize their potential and pursue their dreams.” The Bernard Harris Middle School opened in San Antonio, Texas in 2006. Harris is a past president of the American Telemedicine Association. He is currently president and CEO of a venture capital accelerator that invest in early stage companies in medical informatics and technology.

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Today in Black History, 06/25/2015 | Remembering Michael Jackson

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June 25, 2009 Michael Joseph Jackson, hall of fame singer and the “King of Pop,” died. Jackson was born August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He made his professional debut in 1964 as a member of the Jackson 5. They signed with Motown Records in 1968 and their first four singles, “I Want You Back” (1969), “ABC” (1970), “The Love You Save” (1970), and “I’ll Be There” (1970) all peaked at number one on the Billboard 100. He starred as the scarecrow in the Broadway musical “The Wiz” in 1978. His 1982 album “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time with “Off The Wall” (1979), “Bad” (1987), and “Dangerous” (1991) among the best-selling of all time. Over his career, Jackson won 19 Grammy Awards, including a record eight in 1984. He is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. Jackson received numerous awards, including the World Music Award’s “Best Selling Pop Music Artist of the Millennium” and the American Music Award’s “Artist of the Century.” He was a double inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a member of the Jackson 5 in 1997 and as a solo artist in 2001. Jackson was posthumously honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 2010.  Several biographies have been written about Jackson, including “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask” (2005).

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Today in Black History, 06/24/2015 | Prince Hall

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June 24, 1835 A tribute monument to Prince Hall was unveiled next to his grave marker on Copp’s Hill in Boston, Massachusetts. Hall was born September 14, 1735 in Barbados. Not much is known of his youth and how he ended up in Boston. It is known that he was a property owner and a registered voter and that he worked as an abolitionist and civil rights activist. He fought for laws to protect Black people from kidnapping by slave traders and campaigned for schools for Black children. Hall and 14 other free Black men were initiated into Military Lodge No. 441, a lodge attached to the British Army, March 6, 1775. On July 3, 1776, the Black Masons were granted a dispensation for limited operations as African Lodge No. 1 which then served as the mother lodge to new Black lodges in other cities. Black Freemasons formed the African Grand Lodge of North America in 1791 and unanimously elected Hall Grand Master, a positon he held until his death December 4, 1807. The African Grand Lodge was later renamed Prince Hall Grand Lodge in his honor. “Prince Hall: Life and Legacy” was published in 1983. Hall’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 06/20/2015 | 1943 Detroit Race Riot

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June 20, 1943 The Detroit Race Riot began with a fist fight between a Black man and a White man on Belle Isle. The fight eventually grew into confrontations between groups of Black and White people and spread into the city. Rumors that Black women were being assaulted and White women being raped fueled the confrontations. Stores were looted and buildings burned, primarily around the Black section of town called Paradise Valley. After 36 hours, Federal troops restored peace to the streets. Over the course of the riot, 36 people were killed, 25 of whom were African American, 600 injured, 75%  of which were African Americans, and 1,800 people were arrested, with Black people accounting for more than 85%.

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RELEASE: Detroit native Vivian Carpenter releases debut novel

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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                Detroit native Vivian Carpenter releases debut novel

Political thriller explores the trials and tribulations of the first Black female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

 

Rooted in the historical treatment of Blacks in the United States, Vivian Carpenter’s The Fifth Letter reveals how U.S. Justice Katherine Ross, the first Black female on the U.S. Supreme Court, is influenced by secrets in her mother’s memoirs as she wrestles with the power and the politics of the nation’s highest court. Carpenter, a Detroit nativet, will speak about her novel during a free lecture and book signing Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 6 PM at the Charles H. Wright Museum for African American History. 

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Today in Black History, 06/19/2015 | Dr. Ben Carson received Presidential Medal of Freedom

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June 19, 2008 President George W. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award, to Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr. Carson was born September 18, 1951 in Detroit, Michigan. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Yale University in 1973 and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1977. He became director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital at 33, the youngest major division director at the hospital. Carson became the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate Siamese twins conjoined at the back of the head in 1987. Other surgical innovations by Carson include the first intrauterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin and a hemispherectomy to remove half of the brain of a young girl suffering from uncontrollable seizures. Carson retired as a surgeon and joined The Washington Times as a weekly opinion columnist in 2013. He co-founded the Carson Scholarship Fund in 1994 to recognize young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments. Carson was awarded the 2006 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. He published his autobiography, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” in 1990. Other books by Carson include “Think Big” (1996), “The Big Picture” (2000), “Take The Risk” (2008), and “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future.” He has received 38 honorary doctorate degrees and serves on the board of directors of Kellogg Company and Costco Wholesale Corporation. Carson is a member of the American Academy of Achievement and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. He was elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine in 2010. Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine in Detroit is named in his honor. Carson is currently attempting to become the Republican nominee for the presidency in 2016.

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Today in Black History, 06/18/2015 | Nicodemus

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June 18, 1877 The first settlers arrived in Nicodemus, Kansas, the only remaining western community established by African Americans. The town was named for an individual that came to America on a slave ship and later purchased his freedom. Formerly enslaved people in the South were encouraged to settle in Nicodemus. The town was portrayed as a place for African Americans to establish Black self-governance. Nicodemus had a population of almost 500, a bank, two hotels, three churches, a newspaper, a drug store, and three general stores by 1880. However, the Union Pacific Railroad bypassed Nicodemus and established an extension six miles away and across the river in 1888. Businesses moved to the new extension and Nicodemus began to experience a long gradual decline. The decline was accelerated by the 1929 depression and the severe droughts from 1932 to 1934. The town was reduced to a population of 76 people by 1935. Today, approximately 20 people live in Nicodemus and the only remaining business is the Nicodemus Historical Society Museum. Nicodemus was designated a National Historical Site November 12, 1996. Annually, Emancipation Day is celebrated in Nicodemus the last weekend of July.  
 

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Today in Black History, 06/17/2015 | Venus Williams

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June 17, 1980 Venus Ebony Starr Williams, professional tennis player, businesswoman and author, was born in Lynwood, California. Williams’ family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida when she was ten so that she and her sister could attend a tennis academy. She began her professional tennis career in 1994 and won her first World Tennis Association singles title in 1998. Over her career, she has won 46 WTA singles titles and 22 Grand Slam titles, 7 in singles, 13 in doubles, and 2 in mixed doubles. That is more than any other active player, other than her sister Serena. At the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games, Williams became only the second player to win Gold medals in both singles and doubles at the same games. She also won a Gold medal in doubles at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. Williams has also led the fight for equal prize money for women. After Wimbledon and the French Open announced in 2007 that they would award equal prizes to women, the Chicago Sun-Times cited Williams as “the single factor that changed the minds of the boys” and a leader whose “willingness to take a public stand separates her not only from her female peers, but also from our most celebrated male athletes.” Williams received her associate degree in Fashion Design in 2007 and is chief executive officer of her own interior design company. She and her sister became part-owners of the Miami Dolphins in 2009, the first African American female owners of a National Football League franchise. “Venus and Serena: A Biography” was published in 2005 and Williams published “Come to Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession” in 2010. She was named one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future” by Time magazine in 2011. Also that year, Forbes magazine listed her number 10 on its list of Most Powerful Black Women in the United States.

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Today in Black History, 06/16/2015 | Francis B. “Frank” Johnson

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June 16, 1792 Francis B. “Frank” Johnson, bugler, bandleader and composer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not much is known of Johnson’s early life other than he was a well- known musician in Philadelphia by 1818. That year, Johnson published “A Collection of New Cotillions,” the first published African American composer. He went on to compose more than 300 pieces of music with over 250 of his pieces being published. Johnson composed much of the music for the triumphal return to Philadelphia of Revolutionary War hero General Lafayette in 1872. He led his band to Europe in 1837, the first Black American musicians to visit Europe, where they performed for Victoria shortly before she became Queen of England. Johnson returned to the United States at the end of 1838 and toured widely through the U. S. and Canada until 1844. White bands often refused to perform in parades when Johnson’s band was performing. Johnson died April 6, 1844 but his band continued to perform until about the time of the Civil War. A Pennsylvania state historical marker in Philadelphia was dedicated to Johnson in 1992.

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Home, Juneteenth & Black in Latin America: The Wright's Weekly Update June 15 - 21

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Today in Black History 06/15/2015 | Bessie Coleman

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June 15, 1921 Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman became the first African American woman to earn an international aviation license. Coleman was born January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. She became interested in flying in her early 20s but could not gain admittance to American flight schools because she was Black and a woman. Therefore, she traveled to Paris, France where she learned to fly and gained her license. After completing an advanced training course, Coleman became a barnstorming stunt flier know as Queen Bess. Coleman died April 30, 1926 when her plane crashed. A road at O’Hara Airport in Chicago, Illinois was renamed Bessie Coleman Drive in 1990. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor and she was posthumously inducted into the Women in Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995. Biographies of Coleman include “Bessie Coleman: The Brownskin Lady Bird” (1994) and “She Dared to Fly: Bessie Coleman” (1997). Her 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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