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Today in Black History, 6/22/2014

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 • June 22, 1865 Aaron Anderson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. While serving as a landsman on board the U.S.S. Wyandank on a mission to attack Confederate forces in Mattox Creek in Virginia, his actions earned him the medal. His citation partially reads, “carried out his duties courageously in the face of devastating fire which cut away half the oars, pierced the launch in many places and cut the barrel off a musket being fired at the enemy.” Anderson was born in 1811 in Plymouth, North Carolina and enlisted in the Union Navy at 52. He left the navy after his term of service expired and little is known of his post-war life except that he died January 9, 1886.

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Today in Black History, 6/21/2014

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 • June 21, 1832 Joseph Hayne Rainey, the first African American directly elected to the United States Congress, was born enslaved in Georgetown, South Carolina. Shortly after Rainey’s birth, his father bought their family’s freedom. In 1861, Rainey was drafted into the Confederate Army to work on fortifications. After a year, he and his wife were able to escape to Bermuda. In 1866, after the Civil War’s end, Rainey returned to South Carolina and joined the executive committee of the state Republican Party. In 1868, he was a delegate to the convention that wrote the state’s new constitution and in 1870 was elected to the State Senate. Later that year, Rainey was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served until 1879. During his time in Congress, Rainey focused on supporting legislation to protect the civil rights of southern Black people. He also served on the Committee on Indian Affairs and opposed legislation to limit the number of Asian immigrants to the U. S. In April, 1874, he took the chair from the Speaker of the House and became the first African American to preside over the House of Representatives. After leaving Congress, he was appointed internal revenue agent of South Carolina, a position he held for two years. Rainey moved to Washington, D. C. and engaged in banking and the brokerage business before retiring in 1886. He died August 1, 1887. His biography, “Detour – Bermuda, Destination – U. S. House of Representatives: The Life of Joseph Hayne Rainey,” was published in 1977.

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Today in Black History, 6/20/2014

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• June 20, 1858 Charles Waddell Chesnutt, author and political activist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Chesnutt eventually became assistant principal at the normal school now known as Fayetteville State University. In 1887, Chesnutt passed the Ohio bar exam and established a successful legal stenography business in Cleveland. His first short story, “The Goophered Grapevine,” was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1887 and his first book, “The Conjure Woman,” was published in 1899. Other novels by Chesnutt include “The House Behind the Cedars” (1900) and “The Marrow of Tradition” (1901). In 1906, his play “Mrs. Darcy’s Daughter” was produced. Chesnutt served on the general committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was one of the early 20th century’s most prominent activists and commentators. In 1917, he protested and successfully shutdown showings in Ohio of the film “Birth of a Nation.” In 1928, Chesnutt was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal. More than 50 years before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Chesnutt concluded one of his speeches, “Looking down the vista of time I see an epoch in our nation’s history, not in my time or yours, but in not the distant future, when there shall be in the United States but one people, molded by the same culture, swayed by the same patriotic ideals, holding their citizenship in such high esteem that for another to share it is of itself to entitle him to fraternal regard; when men will be esteemed and honored for their character and talents.” Chesnutt died November 15, 1932. In 2002, the Library of America added a major collection of Chesnutt’s works to its important American author’s series and in 2008 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. “Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Pioneer of the Color Line” was published in 1952.

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Today in Black History, 6/19/2014

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• June 19, 1845 Bruce Anderson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Mexico, New York. Anderson was a farmer prior to enlisting in the Union Army in 1864 during the Civil War. On January 15, 1865, he was serving as a private in Company K of the 142nd New York Infantry when he participated in an attack on Fort Fisher in North Carolina. He and twelve other men volunteered to advance ahead of the main attack and cut down the palisade which blocked their path. Despite intense fire from the Confederate defenders, they were successful in destroying the obstacle. Anderson and the others were recommended for the medal but the recommendation was lost. In 1914, Anderson hired a lawyer to petition for the medal and December 28, 1914 was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Not much is known of Anderson’s later life other than he died August 22, 1922.

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Today in Black History, 6/18/2014

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• June 18, 1839 Robert Reed Church, Sr., businessman and philanthropist, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. As a teenager, Church worked as a cabin boy and steward on his White father’s steamboat and during the Civil War he served as a cabin steward on a Union steamer. In 1865, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and acquired a saloon, restaurant, and downtown hotel. During the Memphis Race Riot of 1866, a White mob shot him and left him for dead. Church recovered and after the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 bought considerable real estate at depressed prices. In 1899, he bought a tract of land on Beale Street and built Church’s Park and Auditorium, the first major urban recreational center owned by an African American. The auditorium seated 2,000 and became a renowned cultural, recreational, and civic center for Black people in Memphis. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt spoke to 10,000 people at the auditorium and on the surrounding grounds. In 1906, Church founded the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company. Church’s net worth was approximately $700,000 and he gave liberally to local school, social, and civic organizations and was the most prominent philanthropist in the city. In 1908, he paid off the creditors of Beale Street Baptist Church to prevent their foreclosure. Church died August 29, 1912.

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Today in Black History, 6/17/2014

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• June 17, 1851 John Brown Russwurm, abolitionist and newspaper editor, died. Russwurm was born enslaved October 1, 1799 in Port Antonio, Jamaica. In 1807, he was sent by his White father to Quebec, Canada to attend school and in 1812 moved with his father to Portland, Maine. Russwurm graduated from Hebron Academy in his early twenties and taught at an African American school in Boston, Massachusetts. In September, 1826, Russwurm earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowdoin College, the first African American to graduate from Bowdoin. In 1827, Russwurm moved to New York City and along with his co-editor, Samuel Cornish, published the first edition of Freedom’s Journal, an abolitionist newspaper dedicated to opposing slavery, March 16, 1827. Freedom’s Journal was the first newspaper in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. In 1829, Russwurm immigrated to Liberia where he served as the colonial secretary for the American Colonization Society until 1834. He also worked as editor of the Liberia Herald and served as the superintendent of education. In 1836, he became the first Black Governor of the Maryland section of Liberia, a post he held until his death. There is a statue of Russwurm at his burial site in Harper, Cape Palmas, Liberia. The Russwurm African American Center on the campus of Bowdoin was dedicated in 1970 and the John B. Russwurm House in Portland was listed on the National Register of Historic Places July 21, 1983. John B. Russwurm Elementary School in New York City is named in his honor. Biographies of Russwurm include “John Brown Russwurm” (1970) and “The Struggles of John Brown Russwurm: The Life of a Pan-Africanist Pioneer, 1799-1851” (2010).

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Today in Black History, 6/16/2014

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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 but by 1818 he was a well- known musician in Philadelphia. 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. In 1837, he led his band to Europe, 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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Today in Black History, 6/15/2014

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• June 15, 1755 John Marrant, one of the first African American preachers and missionaries, was born in New York City but raised in Charleston, South Carolina. During the Revolutionary War, the British forced him into the navy where he served for seven years. In 1782, Marrant began training as a Methodist minister and was ordained in 1785. That year, he was sent to Nova Scotia to minister to several thousand African Americans who had fled north during the Revolutionary War. In 1788, Marrant became the chaplain of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1790, Marrant traveled to London, England where he died April 15, 1791. He published his memoir, “A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black,” in 1785. His memoir was so popular that it was reprinted more than 17 times. A sermon he delivered in 1789 and his journal from 1785 to 1790 were also published.

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Today in Black History, 6/14/2014

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• June 14, 1854 Nat Love, one of the most famous cowboys of the Old West, was born enslaved in Davidson County, Tennessee. Although he had no formal education, Love learned to read and write on his own. After the end of the Civil War, Love was freed and headed west. Over the next few years, he worked as a ranch hand for several different ranches. In 1876, he entered a 4th of July competition in Deadwood, South Dakota involving roping, bridling, saddling, and shooting. Love won every competition and was nicknamed Deadwood Dick. Love continued to work as a cowboy until 1889 when he married and took a job as a Pullman porter. He published his autobiography, “Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in Cattle Country as Deadwood Dick,” in 1907. Love died in 1921.

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Today in Black History, 6/13/2014

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• June 13, 1828 St. Francis Academy, the oldest continuously operated school for Black Catholic children in the United States, opened in Baltimore, Maryland under the name Baltimore School for Colored Girls. The founding mission was to teach children of color to read the bible. In 1870, the school moved to its current location where its main building has served as a convent, an orphanage, a dormitory, and a school for young women. By the turn of the 20th century, the school had been renamed St. Francis Academy. In 2002, the campus was expanded with a facility housing additional classrooms, new computer labs, a health suite, meeting rooms, and a gymnasium. Since its inception, the academy has addressed the societal forces disrupting the potential of children and their families.

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Today in Black History, 6/12/2014

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• June 12, 1868 King Solomon White, hall of fame Negro league baseball player, manager, executive and author, was born in Bellaire, Ohio. White joined the Pittsburgh Keystones of the National Colored Baseball League in 1887, starting a playing career that lasted until 1912. He made a name for himself in the predominantly White minor leagues before Black men were excluded from playing. White was instrumental in the 1902 formation of the Philadelphia Giants and the later development and operation of various leagues. In 1907, his book “Sol White’s History of Colored Baseball” was published, the first definitive history of Black baseball. White spent most of his remaining years as a journalist for African American newspapers. White died August 26, 1955. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 6/11/2014

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• June 11, 1850 Henry Johnson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Boydton, Virginia. On October 5, 1879, Johnson was serving as a sergeant in Company D of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Milk River, Colorado during the Indian Wars when his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads, “Voluntarily left fortified shelter and under heavy fire at close range made the rounds of pits to instruct the guards and fought his way to the creek and back to bring water to the wounded.” In recognition of his heroic actions, Johnson was awarded the medal , America’s highest military decoration, September 22, 1890. Not much else is known of Johnson’s later life except that he died January 31, 1904 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Good News: Wright museum gets $1M from Kellogg foundation

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Hundreds of Detroit residents and guest await to enter the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History during the final 2013 Detroit Mayoral Debate hosted by WADL Detroit in Detroit on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. The final debate featured the top six candidates including Tom Barrow, Krystal Crittendon, Mike Duggan, Fred Durhal, Lisa Howze and Benny Napolean. Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press
 
Hundreds of Detroit residents and guest await to enter the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History during the final 2013 Detroit Mayoral Debate hosted by WADL Detroit in Detroit on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. The final debate featured the top six candidates including Tom Barrow, Krystal Crittendon, Mike Duggan, Fred Durhal, Lisa Howze and Benny Napolean. Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press / Jarrad Henderson

By Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press (June 10, 2014)

 

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History has received a $1-million donation from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as well as a $100,000 donation from a prominent Birmingham businessman, the Free Press has learned.

Kellogg President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron said Monday that the foundation awarded the million-dollar grant “to help the organization grow and become even more effective and imbedded into the community.”

“A lot of foundations give money for programs, and that’s fine,” she said. “But there are certain organizations that, because we believe in their value in the community, sometimes need general support that allows them to pursue their missions with a little less burden of continuous fund-raising.”

And the businessman, Jon Barfield, said he was moved by A. Paul Schaap’s donation of $5 million to help the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collections and city retirees’ pensions.

The Schaap donation led to millions of dollars in subsequent gifts from individuals and foundations — and, on Monday, the auto industry — in what has become the equivalent of $816 million over 20 years for a grand bargain making the DIA an independent entity and helping pensioners.

Barfield wants a grand bargain for the Wright.

“I think we can best make our case to the foundations and the state if we step up and help ourselves,” Barfield, a Wright board member and CEO of LJ Holdings Investment, said Monday. “Hopefully this will provide a spark for additional significant support, and then we can go to the foundations and go to Gov. (Rick) Snyder and say this museum deserves to be saved. We want to go from hand-to-mouth culture to the point where we sustain the museum.”

That hand-to-mouth culture has led to the museum to the brink of death more than once. The city funded 75% of the museum’s construction costs in 1997 and pledged to pay half its operating costs every year. But the city never met that pledge. Its contribution was 48% in 2010 and fell to 21% this year.

The Wright nearly closed 10 years ago until U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith rallied donors to save it. Ironically, Barfield’s wife, Dr. Vivian Carpenter, gifted the Wright with $100,000 in that campaign.

The museum’s current budget is $4.7 million, which is half of what museum officials say is needed. The museum is now operating at a $200,000 deficit, said President and CEO Juanita Moore.The financial woes have resulted in “layoffs and a dwindling number of programs for our children,” Barfield said.

The museum has seen a surge in donations since a Free Press report in January, but officials want to raise enough money not to seek grants regularly to survive.

That is Barfield’s hope.

“I consider the Charles Wright Museum to be a part of the cultural global solution for the city of Detroit, to not just be saved, but to prosper and grow,” said Barfield, who grew up in Ypsilanti and is retired chairman, president and chief executive of the Bartech Group, one of the largest independent professional services and management companies in the country.

“Do you recall the gentleman in Grosse Pointe?” Barfield said, referring to Schaap. “It occurred to me that if I were to do what he did, it might provide a little bit of a spark in the community for others who have the capacity to do more to support the museum. That’s why I did it.”

Changing the way the museum raises funds is music to the ears of Moore, CEO of the Wright, who called Barfield’s gift “significant and a signal to other people to encourage them to give.”

“We hope that will unite others to step up and give major gifts,” she said.

Moore said Barfield’s contribution was the second $100,000 gift after a private one given earlier by Howard Sims, the architect who designed the museum.

She declined to say how much money the museum has raised since revealing that it did not have enough money to sustain itself. But the staff continues to apply for grants and is hard at work on the annual Wright Gala, its largest fund-raiser, which is scheduled for September. The gala celebrates a different exhibit every year, and this year honors the black theater costumes exhibit that opens in July.

The museum also is pushing its “Give a Grand, Make a Million” campaign that encourages supporters across the state to give $1,000 gifts to the museum.

As museum staff and supporters work to save the Wright, Barfield recalled a moment that made his gift easy to make.

“I’ve dedicated the latter part of my life to increased philanthropy and being more active in the community … and I love giving back to the museum and to institutions that need our support,” he said. “Sometimes when I come to board meetings, particularly in winter and you walk through the multipurpose room, sometimes, it is full of young black children and teachers who have come there out of the cold, and sometimes I’m moved to tears because the children look so engaged and so happy to have found a safe haven and a nurturing space, which is the museum.”

 

Contact Rochelle Riley: 313-223-4473


Source: Detroit Free Press, June 10, 2014

http://www.freep.com/article/20140610/COL10/306100034/Rochelle-Riley-Wright-museum-gets-1M-from-Kellogg-foundation

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Today in Black History, 6/10/2014

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• June 10, 1799 Joseph Bologne the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, musician, swordsman and equestrian, died. Saint-Georges was born December 25, 1745 in Guadeloupe but raised in France. While still a young man, he acquired reputations as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a classical composer. In 1771, he was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time. He was eventually selected for appointment as director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI but was prevented from taking the position because three Parisian divas felt that “it would be injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a mulatto.” Saint-Georges also served in the French army and was appointed the first Black colonel, commanding a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute. Biographies of Saint-Georges include“Joseph Boulogne called Chevalier de Saint-Georges” (1996) and “Joseph de Saint-Georges, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier)” (2006).

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Today in Black History, 6/9/2014

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• June 9, 1845 James Carroll Napier, businessman and community activist, was born enslaved in Nashville, Tennessee. He and his family were freed when he was three years old. Napier earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Oberlin College in 1868 and his Bachelor of Laws degree from Howard University in 1872. In 1870, he became the first Black non-janitorial employee at the United States Treasury Department. From 1878 to 1889, Napier served on the Nashville City Council where he authored legislation allowing the hiring of Black teachers, police officers, and firefighters. He also became the first African American to preside over the council. On November 5, 1903, Napier and other Black members of the Nashville business community founded the Nashville One-Cent Savings Bank (now Citizens Saving Bank & Trust Company), the nation’s first bank owned and operated by African Americans. He also was instrumental in the establishment of Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School for Negroes (now Tennessee State University) which opened its doors June 19, 1912.. In 1911, Napier was appointed register of the Treasury Department. He resigned that position in 1913 to protest President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to allow continued segregation in federal office buildings. Napier also served as a trustee at Fisk University and Howard University. Napier died April 21, 1940. The Napier-Looby Bar Association in Nashville is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/8/2014

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• June 8, 1823 Robert Morris, one of the first Black lawyers in the United States, was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He became the student of a well-known abolitionist and lawyer and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1847. Shortly after starting his practice, Morris became the first Black lawyer to file a lawsuit on behalf of a client in the U. S. The jury ruled in favor of Morris’ client. Morris was active in abolitionist causes and worked in opposition of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. He also filed the first U. S. civil rights challenge to segregated schools in the 1848 Roberts v. Boston case. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled against Morris in 1850. In the early 1850s, he was appointed a justice of the peace and was admitted to practice before U. S. district courts. When the Civil War began, Morris helped in the recruitment of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first officially sanctioned African American unit in the U. S. Army, while also advocating for equal treatment of African American soldiers. Morris died December 12, 1882.

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Today in Black History, 6/7/2014

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• June 7, 1917 Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks, hall of fame poet and novelist, was born in Topeka, Kansas but raised in Chicago, Illinois. Brooks published her first poem in a children’s magazine at 13 and by the time she was 16 had a portfolio of 75 published poems. In 1945, her first book of poetry, “A Street in Bronzeville,” was published and it received instant critical acclaim. She was selected one of Mademoiselle magazine’s Ten Young Women of the Year. She also won her first Guggenheim Fellowship and became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her second book of poetry, “Annie Allen,” was published in 1949 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry May 5, 1950, the first won by an African American. In 1962, Brooks began teaching creative writing at several institutions, including Northeastern Illinois University and Columbia University. Her book length poem, “In the Mecca” (1968), was nominated for the National Book Award for Poetry. Also in 1968, Brooks was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois and in 1985 was selected the Library of Congress’s Consultant in Poetry (now titled Poet Laureate). Brooks was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988 and in 1994 was chosen as the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Jefferson Lecturer, the highest honor in the humanities given by the federal government. She was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President William Clinton October 5, 1995. Brooks was awarded more than 75 honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities worldwide and there are a number of schools in Illinois named in her honor. Brooks died December 3, 2000. Her biography, “A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks,” was published in 1990.

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Today in Black History, 6/6/2014

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• June 6, 1902 James Melvin Lunceford, bandleader and alto saxophonist, was born in Fulton, Mississippi but raised in Denver, Colorado. Lunceford earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Fisk University in 1926. While teaching high school in Memphis, Tennessee, he formed a student band which eventually became the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra. In 1934, the band began an engagement at the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York and by 1935 they had achieved a national reputation as one of the top Black swing bands. The Lunceford Orchestra recorded 22 hits, including the number one “Rhythm Is Our Business” in 1935. It was the first Black band to play New York’s Paramount Theater and tour White colleges. Glen Miller was quoted as saying, “Duke Ellington is great, Count Basie remarkable, but Lunceford tops them all.” By 1942, the band began to have internal problems and suffered a decline in popularity. Lunceford died July 12, 1947. The Jimmy Lunceford Jamboree Festival is held annually in Memphis and in 2011 a Mississippi Blues Trail marker dedicated to Lunceford was unveiled.

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Today in Black History, 6/5/2014

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• June 5, 1889 Ernest Charles Tanner, labor leader, was born in Indianapolis, Indianan but raised in Tacoma, Washington. Tanner briefly attended Whitworth College and was the first African American to play collegiate football in the Pacific Northwest. He also played in the local Negro league. In 1918, he joined the Tacoma chapter of the International Brotherhood of Longshoreman and over time rose to become a member of the executive board. Tanner insisted that African American dockworkers be paid the same wages and work under the same conditions as White dockworkers. Tanner died in 1956. The Ernest C. Tanner Labor and Ethnic Studies Center on the campus of the University of Washington is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 6/4/2014

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• June 4, 1895 Joseph Lee of Auburndale, Massachusetts received patent number 540,553 for a machine that made bread crumbs. Lee sold the rights for the machine to the Royal Worchester Bread Crumb Company and the machine was soon in major restaurants around the world. Lee had previously received patent number 524,042 for an improved dough-kneading machine for use in hotels August 7, 1894. Lee was born July 19, 1849 in Boston, Massachusetts and began working in a bakery as a boy. He soon began preparing and serving food, eventually opening two successful restaurants. For 17 years beginning in the late 1890s, he owned the Woodland Park Hotel in Newton, Massachusetts. In 1902, Lee opened the Lee Catering Company which served the wealthy population of Boston. At the same time, he also operated the Squantum Inn, a summer resort that specialized in seafood. Lee died in 1905.

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