Today in Black History, 1/3/2012

·   January 3, 1955 William “Willy” Theodore Ribbs, Jr., the first African American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, was born in San Jose, California. Following his graduation from high school, Ribbs moved to Europe to compete in the Formula Ford Series. He won the Dunlop Championship in his first year of competition and was named International Driver of the Year, Europe in 1977. Ribbs returned to the United States in 1978. In 1983, Ribbs won five races in the Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am Series and was named Pro Rookie of the Year. In 1986, he became the first black person to drive a Formula One car. In 1990, Ribbs joined the Championship Auto Racing Team circuit in a car partially funded by Bill Cosby. He had two top-ten finishes that season and the next year qualified for the Indianapolis 500. Ribbs retired from racing in 1999 and is currently a competitive sports shooter in the National Sporting Clays Association.

·   January 3, 1962 Cheryl D. Miller, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Riverside, California. Miller was an outstanding basketball player in high school. She was the first player, male or female, to be named an All-American by Parade Magazine four times, she was awarded the Dial Award as the national high school scholar/athlete of the year in 1981, and she was the National High School Player of the Year in 1981 and 1982. Miller continued her outstanding play at the University of Southern California where she was a four-time All-American and three-time Naismith College Player of the Year. She still holds USC records for most points, most rebounds, most field goals made, most free throws made, most games played, and most steals. Miller also led the United States Women’s basketball team to the Gold Medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Miller earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from USC in 1985. In the late 1980s, Miller suffered knee injuries that prevented her from continuing her basketball playing career. From 1986 to 1991, she was an assistant coach at USC and from 1993 to 1995 she was the head coach. She coached the Phoenix Mercury in the Women’s National Basketball Association from 1997 to 2000 and since then has been a reporter for the NBA on the television station TNT. In 1995, she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in 1999 she was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2010 she was inducted into the International Basketball Federation Hall of Fame.    

·   January 3, 1966 Samuel Leamon Younge, Jr. was shot to death after he tried to use the “Whites only” restroom at a gas station in Macon County, Alabama, becoming the first black college student killed as a result of his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Younge was born November 17, 1944 in Tuskegee, Alabama. After receiving a medical discharge from the United States Navy, Younge enrolled at Tuskegee Institute in 1965. He became involved in civil rights activities in his first semester. He was involved in the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League, a campus group organized by students to work on desegregating public facilities and lead voter registration drives. After the shooting, the gas station attendant was not indicted until November, 1966 and he was acquitted by an all-white jury the next month. Younge’s story is told in “Sammy Younge, Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement” (1968).

·   January 3, 1978 Liya Kebede, model, clothing designer, and maternal health advocate, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Kebede was discovered in France while attending school. In 1999, she moved to New York City and made her modeling debut. In 2002, she appeared on the cover of Paris Vogue and the entire issue was dedicated to her. In 2003, Kebede was named the face of Estée Lauder, the first black person to represent the company. She has appeared in advertisements for many companies, including Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Revlon, and Louis Vuitton. Forbes Magazine has named her one of the 15 highest paid models. In 2005, Kebede was appointed World Health Organization Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. She also founded the Liya Kebede Foundation to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality around the world. She is also part of the Champions for an HIV Free Generation, an organization of African leaders. In 2010, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

·   January 3, 1989 “The Arsenio Hall Show” debuted as the first regularly-scheduled nightly talk show to star an African American. The show ran until May 27, 1994 and during that time was nominated for six Emmy Awards and won two.