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Today in Black History, February 5, 2016 | Hank Aaron

February 5, 1934 Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Mobile, Alabama. Aaron started his professional baseball career with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League in 1951. He signed a contract with the Boston (now Atlanta) Braves in 1952 and made his major league debut in 1954. Over his 21 season major league career, Aaron performed at a consistently high level for an extended period of time and is generally considered one of the greatest players of all time. He was a 21-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove Award winner, and the 1957 National League Most Valuable Player. Aaron hit his 715th career home run April 8, 1974, breaking one of the most hallowed records in baseball which had stood for 39 years. His uniform number 44 was retired by both the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. He holds the major league records for most total bases, most runs batted in, most extra base hits, and most consecutive seasons with 150 or more hits. Aaron retired after the 1976 season and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. He received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1975 Spingarn Medal. Aaron has remained active with baseball, serving in several upper-level positions in the Atlanta Braves organization. He published his autobiography, "I Had a Hammer" in 1990. Major League Baseball announced the Hank Aaron Award in 1999 to honor the best overall offensive performer in both leagues. Aaron was presented the Presidential Citizens Medal by President William J. Clinton in 2001 and was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush July 9, 2002. Hank Aaron Baseball Stadium in Mobile is named in his honor. It also includes the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum.

February 5, 1813 Jermain Wesley Loguen, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and abolitionist, was born Jarm Logue enslaved in Davidson County, Tennessee. Loguen escaped bondage to Canada in 1834. He learned to read in Canada before moving to Rochester, New York in 1837 and studying at the Oneida Institute. He moved to Syracuse, New York in 1841 and worked as a school teacher and opened schools for Black children. His house was one of the most openly operated stations on the Underground Railroad. It is estimated that more than 1,500 previously enslaved people passed through his house. Loguen became an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and held various church posts before being appointed a bishop in 1868. He published his autobiography, "The Rev. J. W. Loguen, as a Slave and as a Freeman, A Narrative of Real Life," in 1859. Loguen died September 30, 1872.

February 5, 1858 Henry Beard Delany, the second African American bishop elected in the United States, was born enslaved in Saint Mary's, Georgia. Delany graduated in theology from Saint Augustine's School (now college) in 1885. He joined the faculty of the school where he taught until 1908. Delany joined Ambrose Episcopal Church and steadily rose in the Episcopal Church hierarchy, becoming a deacon in 1889, a priest in 1892, an archdeacon in 1908, and a bishop in 1918, the first African American bishop elected in North Carolina. He was also active in promoting education among North Carolina's African American community, helping to organize schools for Black people throughout the state. Although not formally trained as an architect, Delany designed Saint Augustine's chapel in 1895, the only surviving 19th century building on campus. Shaw University awarded Delany an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree in 1911. Delany died April 14, 1928. He was the father of Sadie and Bessie Delany who published their joint autobiography "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years" in 1993.

February 5, 1888 Lucinda Toomer, quilter, was born in Stewart County, Georgia. Toomer learned to quilt from her mother as a young girl. She married at 18 and farmed most of her life but continued to quilt, making about 20 quilts a year. Her quilts were characterized by innovation and improvisation. She received the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the United States' highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, in 1983. Toomer died later that year. Her quilts are part of the traveling exhibition "African American Quiltmakers."

February 5, 1916 Alfred Masters, the first African American to serve in the United States Marines, was born in Palestine, Texas. Masters was sworn into the marines June 1, 1942. After his swearing in, he trained at Montford Point, North Carolina where other African Americans were later trained (now known as the Montford Point Marines). Masters eventually rose to the rank of technical sergeant. Not much else is known of Masters' life except that he died June 16, 1975.

February 5, 1933 James Herman Banning, the first licensed Black male pilot and the first Black pilot to fly coast to coast, was killed in a plane crash during an air show. Banning was born November 5, 1899 in Blaine County, Oklahoma. He studied electrical engineering at Iowa State College for a year. Wanting to fly since his youth, Banning was repeatedly rejected by flight schools because of his race. He eventually was privately taught by an army aviator. He operated J. H. Banning Auto Repair Shop from 1922 to 1928. He moved to Los Angeles, California in 1929 and was a demonstration pilot and the chief pilot for the Bessie Coleman Aero Club. Banning and another Black pilot, using a plane put together from junkyard parts, flew coast to coast from Los Angeles to Long Island, New York in 1932. They made the 3,300 mile trip in 41 hours and 27 minutes in the air. The trip actually took 21 days because they had to raise money for the next leg of the trip each time they stopped.

February 5, 1984 Charles Henry "Chuck" Cooper, the first Black player to be drafted by a National Basketball Association team, died. Cooper was born September 29, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He served in the United States Navy from 1945 to 1946. Cooper played college basketball at Duquesne University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1950. He was selected by the Boston Celtics in the NBA Draft April 25, 1950. Cooper played six seasons in the NBA before retiring from basketball in 1957. He worked in various non-profit programs before being named director of Pittsburgh's parks and recreation department, the city's first Black department head. He also earned his master's degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1961. Cooper served as an urban affairs officer at Pittsburgh National Bank from 1971 to his death.

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Guest — Leta
Enjoyed reading about Chuck Cooper. I'm from Pittsburgh. Great post!
Friday, 05 February 2016 14:08
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Remembering Maurice White | 1941 - 2016

Remembering Maurice White | 1941 - 2016

"There are a lot of things wrong on this planet. It's important to put the emphasis on the positive aspect. I have learned that music helps a lot of people survive, and they want songs that can give them something -- I guess you could call it hope."

- Maurice White, 1985
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Today in Black History, February 4, 2016 | Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith

February 4, 2007 Two African American National Football League head coaches, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, met in the Super Bowl. This was the first time that any African American head coach had led his team to the Super Bowl. The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29 to 17, making Dungy the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl.

February 4, 1900 John Percial Parker, inventor, Underground Railroad conductor and businessman, died. Parker was born February 2, 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. He was sold into slavery at eight. He had earned enough money by 1845 to buy his freedom for $1,800. Parker became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company in 1854. His foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918. Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army during the Civil War and supplied castings for the war effort. He received patent number 304,552 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses September 2, 1886. He received patent number 318,285 for the Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer, May 19, 1885. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. His autobiography, "His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad," was published in 1996.

February 4, 1901 Jefferson Franklin Long, the first African American from Georgia elected to the United States House of Representatives, died. Long was born enslaved March 3, 1836 near Knoxville, Georgia. He was self-educated and worked as a merchant tailor. He was emancipated at the end of the Civil War and was a prominent member of the Republican Party, traveling throughout the South urging formerly enslaved men to register to vote, by 1867. Partially as a result of his efforts, 37 African Americans were elected to the Georgia constitutional convention of 1867 and 32 were elected to the state legislature. Long advocated for public education, higher wages, and better terms for sharecroppers. He also helped organize the Union Brotherhood Lodge, a Black mutual aid society, in Macon, Georgia. Long was elected to fill a vacancy and was seated in December, 1870. He served in Congress until March, 1871. He became the first African American to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives February 1, 1871 when he spoke against the Amnesty Bill which exempted former Confederate politicians from swearing allegiance to the Constitution. The bill passed despite his efforts. Long did not seek re-election but did serve as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1880. Long resumed business as a merchant tailor in Macon, Georgia after serving in Congress.

February 4, 1904 Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American to cast a vote after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, died. Peterson was born October 6, 1824 in Metuchen, New Jersey. He was serving as a school custodian and general handyman in Perth Amboy, New Jersey by March 31, 1870. On that date, Peterson cast his vote in a local election to revise the town's charter. After that was approved, he was appointed to the committee to revise the charter. Peterson later became the town's first African American to hold elected office and also the first to serve on a jury. Decades after his death, the school where Peterson worked was renamed in his honor. In New Jersey, March 31 is annually celebrated as Thomas Mundy Peterson Day in recognition of his historic vote.

February 4, 1913 Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, hall of fame civil rights activist and the "mother of the modern Civil Rights Movement," was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, she refused to obey a bus driver's order to give up her seat to a White passenger and was arrested. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and made her an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. Eventually, she moved to Detroit, Michigan and worked for United States Representative John Conyers from 1965 to 1988. Parks received many honors, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1979 Spingarn Medal, 1983 induction into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, presented by President William J. Clinton September 9, 1996, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. The City of Detroit renamed 12th Street Rosa Parks Boulevard in 1976. Parks died October 24, 2005. She was honored as the first woman and the second African American to lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D. C. She also laid in state in the Rotunda of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan for 48 hours. Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the museum. Her biography, "Rosa Parks: A Biography," was published in 2011. The Washington National Cathedral dedicated a sculpture of Parks May 24, 2012 on the cathedral's Human Rights Porch which celebrates those who struggled to bring equality and social justice to all people. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2013.

February 4, 1943 Purvis Young, artist, was born in Miami, Florida. Young was a self-taught artist who communicated a social message with his work, depicting poverty, crime, and other social issues of the Overton section of Miami. He painted on discarded objects as his canvas, including doors, cardboard, and pieces of wood. Young died April 20, 2010. His works are in the collections of many museums, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Bass Museum of Art, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.

February 4, 1959 Lawrence Julius Taylor, hall of fame football player, was born in Williamsburg, Virginia. Taylor attended the University of North Carolina from 1978 to 1981 and was an All-American and 1980 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. He was selected by the New York Giants in the 1981 National Football League Draft and over his 13 season professional career was the Defensive Rookie of the Year, the 1986 Most Valuable Player, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and ten-time Pro Bowl selection. Taylor retired after the 1993 season and the Giants retired his uniform number 56 in 1994. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. Taylor published two autobiographies, "LT: Living on the Edge" (1987) and "LT: Over the Edge Tackling Quarterbacks, Drugs, and a World Beyond Football" (2003).

February 4, 1975 Louis Thomas Jordan, hall of fame musician, songwriter and bandleader, died. Jordan was born July 8, 1908 in Brinkley, Arkansas. He studied music under his father, including playing in his father's band. Jordan moved to New York City in 1932 and played in the influential Savoy Ballroom orchestra from 1936 to 1938. He formed his first band in 1938 and fronted his own band for the next 20 years. The prime of Jordan's recording career was 1942 to 1950 during which he placed more than a dozen songs on the national charts and dominated the R&B charts with 18 number one singles and 54 top ten singles, including "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" (1944), "Caldonia" (1945), and "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" (1946). Jordan ranks as the top Black recording artist of all time in terms of the total number of weeks at number one on the R&B charts with a total of 113 weeks. Jordan wrote or co-wrote many of the songs he performed. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1975, the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983, and received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Legacy Tribute Award in 2001. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2008. Jordan's biography, "Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan," was published in 1994.

February 4, 1980 Levi Watkins, Jr. performed the first human implementation of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator, a small electronic device which automatically detects irregular rhythms in the heart and shocks the heart back to life. This revolutionary surgical procedure has saved the lives of thousands of patients who suffer from arrhythmia. Watkins was born June 13, 1945 in Parsons, Kansas but raised in Montgomery, Alabama. He attended the churches of both Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. as a youngster and actively participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Watkins earned his Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, from Tennessee State University in 1966 and became the first Black student to enroll at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine that same year. Despite being the only Black medical student on campus for the next four years, he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1970. Watkins interned at John Hopkins Hospital and became the institutions first Black chief resident in cardiac surgery in 1978. He joined the faculty of John Hopkins University School of Medicine that same year. He was named dean for postdoctoral programs and faculty development in 1991. Watkins also led an intensive drive to recruit more Black students to the medical profession. He received honorary doctorate degrees from several institutions, including Meharry Medical College in 1989 and Morgan State University in 1997. Watkins died April 11, 2015. The Levi Watkins, Jr. Faculty and Student Awards are given annually by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, the Levi Watkins Learning Center at Alabama State University is named in his honor, and the Levi Watkins Professorship of Cardiac Surgery has been established at John Hopkins.

February 4, 1984 Lawrence Joel, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Joel was born February 22, 1928 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He joined the United States Army in 1946 and served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. On November 8, 1965, while serving as a medic with the rank of specialist five assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Joel's actions earned him the medal, America's highest military decoration. On that date, Joel and his battalion found themselves in a Viet Cong ambush. Under heavy gunfire, Joel administered first aid to wounded soldiers. He defied orders to stay to the ground and risked his life to help the many wounded soldiers. Even after being shot twice, Joel continued to do his job. He bandaged his wounds and continued to help the wounded in not only his unit, but in the nearby company as well. When his medical supplies were depleted, he hobbled around the battlefield for more, using a makeshift crutch. Joel attended to 13 troops and saved the life of one soldier who suffered from a severe chest wound by improvising and placing a plastic bag over the soldier's chest in order to seal the wound until supplies were refreshed. President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Joel with the medal March 9, 1967. Joel was the first living African American to receive the medal since the Spanish-American War. He retired from military service in 1973. The Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, the Joel Auditorium at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the U. S. Army clinics at Fort McPherson and Fort Bragg are all named in his honor.

February 4, 1998 Thomas Kilgore, one of the few men to lead two major national Baptist organizations, died. Kilgore was born February 20, 1913 in Woodruff, South Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College in 1935 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1957. Kilgore began his fight for equality in the 1940s, registering voters and organizing tobacco workers in North and South Carolina. He moved to New York City in 1947 and as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church raised bail money for civil rights workers jailed in the South. He also served as founding president of the Heart of Harlem Neighborhood Church Association which was organized in 1957 to fight segregation in New York City. Kilgore was also an organizer of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in 1957 and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. He was elected the first Black president of the American Baptist Churches USA in 1969 and served as president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention from 1976 to 1978. The Morehouse College Campus Center is named in his honor.

February 4, 2001 James Louis "J. J." Johnson, hall of fame jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, died. Johnson was born January 22, 1924 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He started studying the piano at nine but decided to play the trombone at 14. Johnson started his professional career in 1941. He played in Benny Carter's orchestra from 1942 to 1945, recording his first solo in 1943. He joined the Count Basie Band in 1945, touring and recording with him until 1946. Johnson began recording as the leader of small groups in 1947 and joined with Kai Winding in 1954 to set up the Jay and Kai Quintet which was musically and commercially successful. Johnson began dedicating more time to composing in the early 1960s, writing a number of large scale works which incorporated elements of both classical and jazz music. He began to compose for film and television in 1970, scoring movies such as "Across 110th Street" (1972), Cleopatra Jones" (1973), and "Willie Dynamite" (1974), as well as television series such as "Starsky & Hutch" and "The Six Million Dollar Man." Johnson was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995 and designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows upon a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1996. His autobiography, "The Musical World of J. J. Johnson," was published in 2000.

February 4, 2005 Raiford Chatman "Ossie" Davis, actor, director, playwright and social activist, died. Davis was born December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia. He began his acting career with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem, New York in 1939. Davis made his film debut in "No Way Out" (1950) and appeared in almost 50 movies over the next 55 years, including Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" (1989), "Jungle Fever" (1991), "Malcolm X" (1992), and "She Hate Me" (2004). His last role was in the Showtime Television drama series "The L Word." Davis also directed five films, including "Cotton Comes to Harlem" (1970) and "Gordon's War" (1973). He and his wife, Ruby Dee, were deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement and were instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Davis delivered the eulogy at the 1965 funeral of Malcolm X and a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King at the 1968 memorial for him in New York City.Davis and Dee were presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President William J. Clinton October 5, 1995. They received Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. Davis and Dee published their memoir, "With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together," in 1998. Davis' name is enshrined in the Ring of Geology at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

February 4, 2013 Donald Byrd, jazz and R&B trumpeter, died. Byrd was born Donald Toussaint L'Overture Byrd II December 9, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan. While attending Cass Technical High School, Byrd played with Lionel Hampton. After playing in a military band during a stint in the United States Air Force, he earned his bachelor's degree in music from Wayne State University in 1954 and later earned his Master of Arts degree in music education from Manhattan School of Music. Byrd played with such jazz greats as Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and Herbie Hancock prior to forming his first band in 1958. Byrd led his group into jazz fusion and R&B in the 1970s and recorded such hits as "Black Byrd" (1972), Blue Note Records highest ever selling album, "Street Lady" (1973), "Steppin' Into Tomorrow" (1974), and "Places and Spaces" (1975). Byrd earned his law degree in 1976 and his Ph. D. in 1982 from Teachers College at Columbia University. Byrd was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000. Byrd taught music at a number of institutions, including Rutgers University, Hampton Institute, Howard University, and Oberlin College. He was named artist-in-residence at Delaware University in 2009.


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Today in Black History, 02/03/2016 | Charles Henry Turner

• February 3, 1867 Charles Henry Turner, behavior scientist, zoologist and educator, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Turner earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1891 and Master of Science degree in 1892 in biology from the University of Cincinnati. He taught at Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) from 1893 to 1905. Turner earned his Ph. D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1907. Despite his advanced degrees, he taught science at a high school in St. Louis, Missouri from 1908 to his retirement in 1922. He also did significant insect research and published more than 70 papers. One of his more important findings was that insects could modify their behavior based on experience. He also discovered that ants find their way back to their nest in a circular pattern. Turner was also a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in St. Louis, arguing that only through education could the behavior of both White and Black racists be changed. Turner died February 15, 1923. Turner Middle School in St. Louis is named in his honor.

• February 3, 1879 Charles W. Follis, the first African American professional football player known as "The Black Cyclone, was born in Cloverdale, Virginia but raised in Wooster, Ohio. Follis played baseball and football for Wooster High School and after graduating in 1901 entered Wooster College. He signed a contract with the Shelby Blues in 1904, the first African American contracted to play professional football. Follis' professional football career was short lived due to a career ending injury suffered on Thanksgiving Day, 1906. He went on to a briefly successful professional baseball career before dying April 5, 1910. Follis Field, the football field/outdoor track facility at Wooster High School, was dedicated in his honor in 1998.

• February 3, 1882 Elizabeth Clarisse Lange (aka Mother Mary), founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence the first United States based religious order of women of color, died. Lange was born around 1784 in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). She and her parents fled to Cuba during the revolution in their native land. About 1813, Lange immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland where a significant number of French-speaking Catholic refugees were settling. Lange was well educated and possessed monies left to her by her father. For ten years, she used her own money and home to offer free education to children of color. On July 2, 1829, Lange and three other women founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence with Lange as the first superior. She served as superior general from 1829 to 1832 and 1835 to 1841. Mother Mary gave of herself and her material possessions until her death. In 1991, the Catholic Church began an investigation into her life and charity which could lead to canonization as a saint. Mother Mary Lange Catholic School in Baltimore is named in her honor.

• February 3, 1900 Mabel Mercer, cabaret singer, was born in Staffordshire, England. At 14, Mercer began touring Britain and Europe with her aunt in vaudeville and music hall engagements. By the 1930s, she had become the toast of Paris, France. When World War II began, she moved to the United States and began her recording career in 1942 with an album of selections from "Porgy and Bess." Other albums by Mercer include "Songs by Mabel Mercer, Vol. 1, 2, and 3" (1953), "Once in a Blue Moon" (1958), and "Merely Marvelous" (1960). Mercer influenced many artists, including Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, and Nat King Cole. She received the first Award for Merit from Stereo Review Magazine for lifetime achievement and for "outstanding contributions to the quality of American musical life." The award was renamed the Mabel Mercer Award in 1984. On February 23, 1983, she was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, by President Ronald W. Reagan. She also received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. Mercer died April 20, 1984. The Mabel Mercer Foundation was established in 1985 "to perpetuate the memory and spirit of its legendary namesake and to stimulate and promote public interest in the fragile and endangered world of cabaret."

• February 3, 1910 Robert Earl Jones, stage and film actor and father of James Earl Jones, was born in Senatobia, Mississippi. Jones was a sharecropper and boxer prior to moving to New York City to pursue a career in acting. Jones made his film debut in the 1939 film "Lying Lips" and appeared in more than 20 other films, including "One Potato, Two Potato" (1964), "The Sting" (1973), and "Witness" (1985). On stage, Jones appeared in "The Hasty Heart" (1945), "Infidel Caesar" (1962), "The Gospel at Colonus" (1988), and the 1991 production of "Mule Bone." Jones was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Black Theater Festival. Jones died September 7, 2006.

• February 3, 1919 Eugene Edward "Snooky" Young, jazz trumpeter, was born in Dayton, Ohio. Young started playing the trumpet at five. He made a name for himself as the lead trumpeter of the Jimmy Lunceford band from 1939 to 1942. Young played with Count Basie three different times for a total of eight years. Young joined the Doc Severinsen "Tonight Show" band on NBC television in 1967 and remained with them until 1992. Young only recorded three albums as bandleader, "Boys from Dayton" (1971), "Snooky and Marshall's Album" (1978), and "Horn of Plenty" (1979). Young was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor that the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment of the Arts in 2009. Young died May 11, 2011.

• February 3, 1935 John "Johnny Guitar" Watson, Jr., hall of fame blues and R&B musician, singer and songwriter, was born in Houston, Texas. At 15, Watson moved with his mother to Los Angeles, California where he won several local talent shows as a singer and pianist. By 1954, he was playing the guitar and recorded the revolutionary "Space Guitar." He scored his first chart hit in 1955 with "Those Lonely Lonely Nights." Watson toured and recorded with many blues and R&B stars of the era, including Little Richard and Johnny Otis. When the popularity of the blues declined in the 1960s, he transformed himself into an urban soul singer and recorded the albums "Ain't That a Bitch" (1976) and "A Real Mother For Ya" (1977). Other albums by Watson include "Gangster of Love" (1958), "Love Jones" (1980), and "Bow Wow" (1994) which earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Watson died May 17, 1996. He posthumously received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1996 and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008.

• February 3, 1936 George Washington Henderson, the first Black person inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, died. Henderson was born enslaved November 11, 1850 in Clark County, Vermont. He was freed after the Civil War and learned to read and write. He graduated from the University of Vermont, first in his class, in 1877 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He was actually the second Black person to be nominated for the society but the first to be inducted. Henderson went on to earn his Master of Arts degree from the University of Vermont in 1880 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University in 1883. He moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1888 and was ordained a Congregational minister. He served as chair of the theology department at Straight University (now Dillard University) from 1890 to 1904, as dean of theology at Fisk University from 1904 to 1909, and as professor of Latin, Greek, and ancient literature at Wilberforce University from 1909 to his retirement in 1932. The George Washington Henderson Fellowship at the University of Vermont sponsors pre and post-doctorate scholars.

• February 3, 1938 Emile Alphonse Griffith, hall of fame boxer, was born in Saint Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands. Griffith began boxing professionally in 1958 and won the World Welterweight Boxing Championship in 1961, the first world champion from the Virgin Islands. He lost the title later that year but regained it in 1962 in a fight which resulted in the death of his opponent, Benny Paret. That fight and the subsequent publicity and criticism became the basis for the 2005 documentary, "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story." In April, 1966, Griffith won the World Middleweight Boxing Championship which he held until April, 1967. Ring magazine named Griffith Fighter of the Year in 1964. After 18 years boxing, Griffith retired with a record of 85 wins, 24 losses, and 2 draws. After retiring, Griffith trained a number of other boxers, including Wilfredo Benitez and Juan Laporte who won world championships. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Griffith died July 23, 2013. A park in the Virgin Islands is named in his honor.

• February 3, 1939 John William "Johnny" Bristol, musician, songwriter and record producer, was born in Morganton, North Carolina. After serving in the United States Air Force, Bristol recorded several singles before his label was absorbed by Motown Records in the mid-1960s. At Motown, he teamed with Harvey Fuqua to write and produce some of their biggest hits, including Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (1967), Edwin Starr's "Twenty-Five Miles" (1969), Jr. Walker & the All Stars' "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" (1969), and Gladys Knight & the Pips' "I Don't Want To Do Wrong" (1971). Bristol left Motown in 1973 and resumed his recording career, scoring hits with "Hang On In There Baby" (1974) and "Do It To My Mind" (1976). He was nominated for the 1975 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Bristol continued to record until his death March 21, 2004.

• February 3, 1947 Percival Prattis became the first African American news correspondent admitted to the press galleries of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Prattis was born April 27, 1895 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Hampton Institute (now University) from 1912 to 1915 and graduated in 1916 from Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University). A veteran of World War I, Prattis joined the Pittsburgh Courier in 1935, became editor in 1956, and retired in 1962. During his time at the Courier, he highlighted the struggles of African Americans for fair employment opportunities. He was a civil rights leader noted for his ability to unify Black newspeople in the fight against discrimination of African Americans in the press. After retirement, he continued to be actively involved in the Pittsburgh community, including becoming the first African American officer on the Community Chest of Allegheny County Council. Prattis died February 29, 1980.

• February 3, 1948 Laura Wheeler Waring, educator and painter, died. Waring was born May 16, 1887 in Hartford, Connecticut. She graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1914 and was awarded a scholarship to study in Paris, France. Waring focused her artistic endeavors on portraiture. Upon returning from her studies in Paris in 1928, she founded and taught in the art and music departments at the State Normal School at Cheyney (now Cheyney University) until her death. While teaching, Waring was also painting. The Harmon Foundation commissioned her to paint the series "Portraits of Outstanding American Citizens of Negro Origin" in 1943. A year after her death, the Howard University Gallery of Art held an exhibition of her work. Her work is included in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Howard University.

• February 3, 1969 Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, former President of the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO), was assassinated. Mondlane was born June 20, 1920 in Portuguese East Africa (now The Republic of Mozambique). Mondlane earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology and sociology from Oberlin College in 1953 and later his Master of Arts and Ph. D. degrees in sociology from Northwestern University. After graduating, he became a United Nations official and later joined the Mozambican pro-independence movement. Mondlane was elected president of FRELIMO in 1962 and the organization began a guerilla war in 1964 to obtain Mozambique's independence from Portugal. Mondlane was killed by a bomb planted in a book that was sent to him. On June 25, 1975, Portugal handed over power to FRELIMO and Mozambique became an independent nation. That same year, the university in the capital of Maputo was renamed Eduardo Mondlane University. Mondlane completed "The Struggle for Mozambique," which described the colonial system in Mozambique and the struggle for independence, just before his death.

• February 3, 1977 Edwin Bancroft Henderson, the "grandfather of Black basketball," died. Henderson was born November 28, 1884 in Washington, D. C. He became the first African American certified to teach physical education in 1904 and was director of physical education in Washington's segregated schools from 1920 to 1954. Henderson first learned basketball in 1904 at Harvard University while attending a summer physical training class for gym teachers. He returned to D. C. and introduced the game to Black students. From then until the 1950s, Henderson played and coached basketball and taught the game to thousands of Washington area schoolchildren. Henderson was also a civil rights activist, serving as president of the Virginia Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1955 to 1958 and advocating for interracial athletic competition. He also was a prolific writer of letters to the editor, writing more than 3,000 letters concerning race relations. According to the Washington Post, no one wrote more letters to the editor than Henderson. Today, the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation and the Post co-sponsor a "Dear Editor" contest in his honor. A Virginia historical marker designates his home in Falls Church, Virginia. Henderson was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

• February 3, 1979 Aaron Douglas, painter and educator, died. Douglas was born May 26, 1899 in Topeka, Kansas. He developed an interest in art during his childhood. Douglas earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Nebraska in 1922. He moved to New York City in 1925 and produced illustrations for The Crisis and Opportunity magazines as well as the books of prominent Black writers. Douglas created the "Symbolic Negro History" mural at Fisk University in 1930 and the "Aspects of Negro Life" mural at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in 1934. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1939 and founded the art department at Fisk and taught for 27 years. He earned his Master of Arts degree from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1944. Douglas has been called "the father of African American art." His works are in the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2013.

• February 3, 1989 William DeKova White was elected president of Major League Baseball's National League, the first African American to hold such a position in professional sports. White was born January 28, 1934 in Lakewood, Florida. He made his debut as a professional baseball player in 1956 and during his 13 season career was a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner. After retiring as a player in 1969, White had an 18 year career as a sportscaster. White served as president of the National League until his retirement in 1994. Since retiring, White has continued to serve on several committees for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He published his autobiography, "Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play," in 2011.

• February 3, 2008 Michael Carey became the first African American to referee a Super Bowl game. Carey played collegiate football for Santa Clara University but an injury ended his playing career. He earned his bachelor's degree in biology from the university in 1971. Carey began his football officiating career in 1972 working Pop Warner football games. He progressed to the college level in 1985 and was hired by the National Football League as a side judge in 1990. Carey was promoted to referee in 1995, the second African American referee in NFL history. He retired in 2014 and joined CBS Sports as an analyst. In 1979, Carey and his wife founded Seirus Innovation, a manufacturer of ski and snowboarding accessories. He is also an inventor who owns or shares eight ski apparel patents.

• February 3, 2009 Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. became the first African American to assume the position of United States Attorney General. Holder was born January 21, 1951 in The Bronx, New York. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in American history from Columbia College in 1973 and his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School in 1976. After graduating from law school, he joined the U. S. Justice Department's Public Integrity Section and worked there until 1988. That year, President Ronald W. Reagan appointed Holder a Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Holder stepped down from the bench in 1993 to accept an appointment as U. S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the first Black U. S. attorney in that office. He was promoted to deputy attorney general in 1997 and served until 2001. From 2001 to 2007, Holder worked in private practice, representing clients such as Merck and the National Football League. During his tenure as attorney general, he has been a staunch defender of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the president's legal right to prosecute the War on Terror. He announced his plans to step down from the position in 2014. Holder received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Boston University in 2010. He was included on Time magazine's 2014 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

• February 3, 2013 Cardiss H. Collins, the first African American woman to represent the Midwest in Congress, died. Collins was born September 24, 1931 in St. Louis, Missouri but raised in Detroit, Michigan. She attended Northwestern University and worked for the Illinois Department of Revenue. Collins was elected to the United States House of Representatives in a 1973 special election to replace her husband who had died in an airline accident. For nearly a decade, she was the only Black woman serving in Congress. During her time in Congress, Collins was focused on establishing universal health insurance, providing for gender equality in college sports, and reforming federal child care facilities. She was elected president of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1979. Collins retired from Congress in 1997. She was selected by Nielsen Media Research in 2004 to head a task force examining the representation of African Americans in television rating samples. The United States Postal Service's Cardiss Collins Processing and Distribution Center in Chicago, Illinois is named in her honor.

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Today in Black History, 01/05/2016 | Benjamin Ward

January 5, 1984 Benjamin Ward was sworn in as the first African American New York City Police Commissioner. Ward was born August 10, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. He was drafted into the United States Army after graduating from high school and served as a military policeman and criminal investigator in Europe for two years. Ward joined the New York City Police Department in 1951. Initially, due to resentment by White officers, he was not assigned a locker at the precinct which forced him to dress at home and ride the subway to work in uniform. He rose through the ranks to lieutenant during his 15 years in uniform. Ward earned his bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College and his law degree from Brooklyn Law School during that time. He was appointed executive director of NYPD's Civilian Complaint Review Board in 1966. After a series of other appointments, he was appointed police commissioner, a position he held until his retirement in 1989. He also served as an adjunct professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and an adjunct professor of corrections at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Ward died June 10, 2002.

January 5, 1869 Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, opera soprano and businesswoman, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia but raised in Providence, Rhode Island. Jones began her formal study of music at the Providence Academy of Music in 1883 and studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in the late 1880s. She made her New York City debut in 1888 and made successful tours of the Caribbean that year and in 1892. Jones became the first African American to sing at the Music Hall in New York City (now Carnegie Hall) June 15, 1892. She also performed for Presidents Benjamin Harrison, S. Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Jones found that access to most American classical concert halls was limited by her race and therefore formed the Black Patti Troubadours, a variety act made up of singers, jugglers, comedians, and dancers, in 1896. The revue was successful enough to provide Jones an income in excess of $20,000. She retired from performing in 1915. Jones died June 24, 1933. "Sissieretta Jones: The Greatest Singer of Her Race" was published in 2012.

January 5, 1871 Patrick H. Raymond was appointed chief engineer of the Cambridge, Massachusetts Fire Department, the first African American fire chief in the United States. He tripled the department's annual budget, created two new fire companies, and built two new firehouses over the seven years that he served as fire chief. Raymond was born in 1831 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Cambridge around 1847 and he worked as a shoemaker before becoming a journalist at the Boston Herald and the Boston Advertiser. Able to pass for White, Raymond served in the U. S. Navy from 1862 to 1864. He returned to Cambridge after his service and became editor of the Cambridge Press in 1869. While serving as fire chief, he was elected corresponding secretary of the National Association of Fire Engineers. After being replaced as fire chief in 1878, he returned to the Cambridge Press as editor and business agent. Raymond died July 28, 1892.

January 5, 1893 Elizabeth Nevills "Libba" Cotten, blues and folk musician, singer and songwriter, was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Cotten began to play her older brother's banjo at seven and had bought her own guitar and taught herself to play by eleven. Cotten began to write her own songs in her early teens. One of which, "Freight Train," became her signature song and was later covered by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez, amongst many others. Cotten married at 17, had a daughter, and retired her guitar for more than 40 years. She recorded "Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar" in 1958 and toured with many big names in the early 1960s, including John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Mississippi John Hurt. She released "Shake Sugaree" in 1967 and won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for "Elizabeth Cotten Live." She was declared a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984. Cotten died June 29, 1987.

January 5, 1900 Edward Park Duplex, the first African American mayor in the western United States, died. Duplex was born May 13, 1831 in New Haven, Connecticut. He moved to Marysville, California in 1854 and became a prominent business and civic leader. He was a representative to the first California Colored Citizens Convention in 1855 and the following year served on the convention's executive committee. Duplex moved to Wheatland, California in 1875 and established a successful hair care business. The Wheatland Board of Trustees elected Duplex Mayor of Wheatland April 11, 1888. The building that housed his business still stands today. The "History of Yuba and Sutter Counties" named Duplex as "a man who helped make Wheatland."

January 5, 1904 William Jacob Knox, Jr., chemist and educator, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Knox earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from Howard University in 1925 and his master's degree in chemical engineering in 1929 and Ph.D. in 1935 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a professor of chemistry at North Carolina A&T College from 1935 to 1936 and head of the chemistry department at Talladega College from 1936 to 1942. Knox served as a section leader at Columbia University working on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb from 1942 to 1945. Knox joined the Eastman Kodak Company as a research scientist after World War II ended and was involved in more than 20 patents over the next 25 years. Knox was also involved in many community organizations, including serving as the first president of the Rochester, New York Urban League, president of the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, and a member of the Rochester Council of the New York State Commission Against Discrimination. Knox died July 9, 1995.

January 5, 1911 Kappa Alpha Psi was founded at Indiana University Bloomington with the motto "achievement in every field of human endeavor." The fraternity has over 150,000 members with 700 undergraduate and alumni chapters around the world. They sponsor programs providing community service, social welfare, and academic scholarship. Notable members of the fraternity include Dr. Calvin O. Butts, John Singleton, Tavis Smiley, John Conyers, and Lerone Bennett, Sr.

January 5, 1911 Robert A. Pinn, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Pinn was born March 1, 1843 in Stark County, Ohio. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and by September 29, 1864 was serving as a first sergeant in Company I of the 5th U. S. Colored Infantry Regiment. On that day, his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm in Virginia and it was for his actions during the battle that he was awarded the medal, America's highest military decoration, April 6, 1865. His citation reads, "Took command of his company after all the officers had been killed or wounded and gallantly led it in battle." Pinn graduated from Oberlin College after the war and became a high school teacher and principal. He also read for the law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1879, the first Black lawyer in Massillon County. The Ohio National Guard named its new armory in his honor in 1973, the first armory to be named after a Black soldier in Ohio, and the shooting facility at the University of Akron was renamed the Robert A. Pinn Shooting Range in 1998. A historical marker honoring Pinn was unveiled in 2003 by the Ohio Historical Society in Massillon, Ohio.

January 5, 1926 Hosea Lorenzo Williams, civil rights activist, politician and minister, was born in Attapulgus, Georgia. After serving in an all-Black unit of the United States Army during World War II, where he earned a Purple Heart, Williams earned a high school diploma at 23. He then earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morris Brown College and his Master of Science degree from Atlanta University in chemistry. Williams worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1963 to 1971 and was arrested 125 times for leading civil and voting rights protests. He was also severely beaten and hospitalized for using a "Whites only" drinking fountain and suffered a fractured skull and concussion during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Williams was the founding president of Hosea Feed the Hungry, which today annually serves 50,000 families and individuals in Georgia, in 1971. Williams served in the Georgia General Assembly from 1974 to 1985 and on the Atlanta City Council from 1985 to 1990. Williams died November 16, 2000. Boulevard Drive in Atlanta was renamed Hosea L. Williams Drive in his honor.

January 5, 1926 Claude Henry "Buddy" Young, the first African American executive hired by the National Football League, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Young attended the University of Illinois where in addition to excelling at football, he won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in the 100 and 220-yard dash. He was also the Amateur Athletic Union champion in the 100-meter race. Young served in the United States Navy from 1945 to 1946. He was selected by the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference in 1947. Over his nine-season professional career, Young was a five-time All-Pro. Young retired from football after the 1955 season. His uniform number 22 was the first number retired by the Baltimore Colts. He was hired by the NFL as an administrative assistant to the commissioner in 1964. Young had risen to director of player relations when he died September 4, 1983.

January 5, 1931 Alvin Ailey, Jr., hall of fame choreographer and activist, was born in Rogers, Texas. Ailey did not become serious about dance until he was 18. He joined the Lester Horton Dance Company in 1953 and when Horton died later that year, Ailey assumed the role of artistic director. He formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 and over the years created 79 works for his dancers, including "Blues Suite" (1958), "Revelations" (1960), "The River" (1970), and "Cry" (1971). Ailey was awarded the 1976 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal and received Kennedy Center Honors in 1988. Ailey died December 1, 1989. He was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 1992 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2004. His biography, "Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance," was published in 1998. Ailey was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack H. Obama November 24, 2014.

January 5, 1932 Laten John Adams, gospel, blues and jazz singer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Adams left school at 15 and began singing professionally with several gospel groups. He crossed over to secular music in 1959 with the single "I Won't Cry." Other singles that charted on the Billboard R&B charts include "A Losing Battle" (1962), "Release Me" (1968), and "Reconsider Me" (1969). Adams recorded unsuccessfully for several labels during the 1970s before releasing a series of critically acclaimed albums in the 1980s and 1990s, including "From the Heart" (1984), "Room With A View of the Blues" (1988), "Good Morning Heartache" (1993), and "Man of My Word" (1998). He received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1999 and was nominated for the W. C. Handy Award for Blues Entertainer of the Year. His critical reputation and standing amongst other musicians always exceeded his commercial success. Adams died September 14, 1998.

January 5, 1943 George Washington Carver, hall of fame scientist, educator and inventor, died. Carver was born enslaved July 12, 1864 in Diamond, Missouri. He and his family were freed after slavery was abolished. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1894 and his Master of Science degree in 1896 from Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences) where he was the first Black student and later the first Black faculty member. He accepted the position to lead the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute (now University) in 1896 and remained there for 47 years. Carver devoted himself to the research and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, including peanuts and sweet potatoes. He also created approximately 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house. Carver received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1923 Spingarn Medal. On his grave is written, "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world." President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri July 14, 1943, the first national monument dedicated to an African American and also the first to a non-president. The United States Postal Service issued commemorative postage stamps in honor of Carver in 1948 and 1998. Carver was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1977, the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990, and was a charter inductee in the United States Department of Agriculture Hall of Heroes as the "Father of Chemurgy" in 2000. Biographies of Carver include "George Washington Carver: Man's Slave, God's Scientist" (1981) and "George Washington Carver: His Life & Faith in His Own Words" (2003). Dozens of schools around the country are named in his honor and his name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

January 5, 1953 Dwight Muhammad Qawi, hall of fame boxer, was born Dwight Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland but grew up in Camden, New Jersey. Qawi was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to prison as a young man. He began boxing while in prison and when he was released in 1978 began his professional boxing career. Qawi won the World Boxing Council Light Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1981. He successfully defended the title three times before losing it in 1983. He moved up in weight and won the World Boxing Association Cruiserweight Boxing Championship in 1985. He lost that title in 1986 but continued boxing until retiring in 1999 with a record of 41 wins, 11 losses, and 1 draw. Qawi was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004. He has worked as a counselor at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center since retiring from boxing.

January 5, 1954 Alexander English, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Columbia, South Carolina. English played college basketball at the University of South Carolina where he was a two-time All-American and earned his bachelor's degree in 1976. He was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1976 National Basketball Association Draft. English spent the majority of his 16 season professional career with the Denver Nuggets and was an eight-time All-Star and led the league in scoring in 1983. He was selected for the 1988 J. Walter Kennedy Award which is given annually to a NBA player, coach, or trainer who shows "outstanding service and dedication to the community." English retired in 1991 and his jersey number 2 was retired by the Nuggets in 1993. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. English served as the director of player development and an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors from 2004 to 2011 and was on the coaching staff of the Sacramento Kings from 2012 to 2013. He is currently an analyst on SEC Network.

January 5, 1971 Charles L. "Sonny" Liston, hall of fame boxer, died. Liston was born May 8, 1932 in Johnson Township, Arkansas. He was sentenced to prison in 1950 for taking part in a robbery and while in prison learned to box. Liston was paroled in 1952 and made his professional boxing debut in 1953. He won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1962. Liston lost the title in 1964 but continued to box until 1970. He retired with a career record of 50 wins and 4 losses. Liston was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. Biographies of Liston include "The Devil and Sonny Liston" (2000) and "Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch" (2008). A feature film about his life, "Phantom Punch," was produced in 2008.

January 5, 1979 Charles Mingus, Jr., hall of fame jazz bassist, composer and bandleader, died. Mingus was born April 22, 1922 in Nogales, Arizona. He began writing advanced jazz pieces as a teenager. Mingus toured with Louis Armstrong in 1943 and began recording in 1945. He co-founded Debut Records in 1952 to conduct his recording career as he saw fit. Mingus recorded more than 60 albums as a bandleader during his career, including "Pithecanthropuus Erectus" (1956), "Mingus Ah Um" (1959), "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" (1963), and "Three or Four Shades of Blues" (1977). Mingus was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1971 and is considered one of the most important composers and performers of jazz. The Library of Congress acquired Mingus' papers in 1993 in what they described as "the most important acquisition of a manuscript collection relating to jazz in the library's history." The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor in 1995 and he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. His album "Mingus Dynasty" (1959) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and "Mingus Ah Um" was inducted in 2013 as recordings of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." Mingus published his autobiography, "Beneath the Underdog: His World as composed by Mingus," in 1971. Other biographies of Mingus include "Mingus: A Critical Biography" (1984) and "Myself When I am Real: The Life and Music of Charlie Mingus" (1994).

January 5, 2004 Charles Everett Dumas, hall of fame track and field athlete and the first person to high jump seven feet, died. Dumas was born February 12, 1937 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He made the historic jump at the United States Olympic Trials June 29, 1956. Dumas won the Gold medal in the high jump at the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympic Games. He also won consecutive national high jump titles between 1955 and 1959. Dumas earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in school management from the University of California, Los Angeles and spent 40 years as a teacher, administrator, and coach at Los Angeles high schools. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1990.

January 5, 2007 Asha-Rose Mtengeti Migiro became the first African woman to serve as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Migiro was born July 9, 1956 in Songea, Tanzania. She earned her Master of Laws degree in 1984 from the University of Dars es Salaam and her Ph.D. in law from the University of Konstanz in Germany. She headed the Department of Constitution and Administrative Law from 1992 to 1994 and the Department of Criminal Law from 1994 to 1997. She served as Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children's Affairs from 2000 to 2006. Migiro was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2006, the first woman to hold that position since Tanzania's independence. She completed her assignment as Deputy Secretary-General in 2012 and is currently Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa of the United Nations Secretary-General.

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Today in Black History, 01/04/2016 | Mary Ellen Pleasant

January 4, 1904 Mary Ellen Pleasant, entrepreneur and abolitionist, died. Pleasant was born August 19, 1814 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Records indicate that she was in Nantucket, Massachusetts around 1827 as a bounded servant to a store keeper. Pleasant moved to San Francisco, California during the Gold Rush Era in 1852. Because she was able to pass as White, she was able to work in exclusive men's eating establishments and benefit from the financial information and deals discussed at the tables. She publicly changed her racial designation in the city directory from White to Black after the Civil War and filed a lawsuit after being ejected from a city streetcar due to her race. The 1866 decision in Pleasant v. North Beach & Mission Railroad Company outlawed segregation in the city's public conveyances. Her efforts earned her the title of "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement in California." Her biography, "The Making of "Mammy" Pleasant: A Black Entrepreneur in Nineteenth Century San Francisco," was published in 2003. Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

January 4, 1884 Harry Haskell "Bucky" Lew, the first African American to play professional basketball, was born in Dracut, Massachusetts. Lew joined the local YMCA basketball team in 1898 and his team won the state championship each of the four years he played with them. He was recruited to the Lowell, Massachusetts Pawtucketville Athletic Club of the New England Professional Basketball League as their first African American player in 1902. There he gained a reputation for his defensive play but also encountered jeers and racial slurs. When the league folded in 1905, Lew spent the next 20 years barnstorming around New England with teams that he organized. He moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1928 and operated a dry cleaning business until his death October 22, 1963.

January 4, 1901 Cyril Lionel Robert James, historian, journalist and author, was born in Trinidad and Tobago. James graduated from the Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain and worked as a school teacher. He moved to England in 1932 and began to campaign for the independence of the West Indies, including the publication of his first important work, "The Case for West-Indian Self Government," in 1933. He also became a leading champion of Pan-African agitation and the chairman of the International African Friends of Abyssinia, formed in 1935 in response to Italy's invasion of what is now Ethiopia. James published his only novel, "Minty Alley" in 1936, the first novel to be published by a Black Caribbean author in the United Kingdom. He then published two of his most important works, "World Revolution" (1937) and "The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution" (1938). James lived in the United States from 1938 to 1953 when he was forced to leave under threat of deportation. Ultimately, he returned to England where he lived until his death May 19, 1989. A public library in London is named in his honor. Biographies of James include "C. L. R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary" (1988) and "Urbane Revolutionary: C. L. R. James and the Struggle for a New Society" (2007).

January 4, 1911 Charlotte E. Ray, the first Black female lawyer, died. Ray was born January 13, 1850 in New York City. After graduating from the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth, she attended Howard University where she was a student and teacher. Ray graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1872 with a specialization in commercial law and was admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia. As a "colored woman lawyer," she was unable to sustain a practice. By 1879, she had returned to New York to teach in the public schools. Ray was also an advocate for women's suffrage. She was a delegate to the 1876 conference of the National Women's Suffrage Association. The Greater Washington Area Chapter of the Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association has annually recognized a local outstanding African American female lawyer with the Charlotte E. Ray Award since 1989. The Northeastern University School of Law chapter of Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity is named in her honor.

January 4, 1917 Lloyd George Sealy, the first Black commander of a borough in the New York Police Department, was born in New York City. Sealy became a police officer in 1942 and while working full-time earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from Brooklyn College in 1946 and his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1952. He was promoted to sergeant in 1951, lieutenant in 1959, and captain in 1962. He became the first African American commander of a precinct in 1964 and the first Black assistant chief inspector and commander of a borough in 1966. Sealy was also a founding member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. He retired from the police department in 1969 and became the first African American associate professor of law and police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Sealy died January 4, 1985. The Lloyd Sealy Library at John Jay College of Criminal Justice is named in his honor.

January 4, 1926 Mary Eliza Mahoney, hall of fame nurse and the first African American registered nurse in the United States, died. Mahoney was born May 7, 1845 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children for fifteen years before being accepted into its nursing school. Mahoney earned her nursing degree August 1, 1879. She co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908 and served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for Black Children from 1911 to 1912. Mahoney was also a strong advocate for women's equality and women's suffrage. She was one of the first women in Boston, Massachusetts to register to vote in 1920. Mahoney was posthumously inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. The Mary Mahoney Award is bestowed biennially by the ANA in recognition of significant contributions in advancing equal opportunities in nursing for minority groups. The Mary Eliza Mahoney Dialysis Center in Boston and the Mary Mahoney Lecture Series at Indiana University are named in her honor.

January 4, 1929 Bose Ikard, cowboy, died. Ikard was born enslaved between 1843 and 1847 in Summerville, Mississippi but raised in Parker County, Texas. He was freed after the Civil War and worked as a tracker and cowboy, working cattle drives until 1869. After that, he worked as a farmer until his death. Aspects of his life served as an inspiration for the African American cowboy in the movie "Lonesome Dove." A Texas Historical Marker is installed at his gravesite and the Bose Ikard Elementary School is named in his honor.

January 4, 1935 Floyd Patterson, hall of fame boxer, was born in Waco, North Carolina. Patterson started boxing at 14 and won the Gold medal at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympic Games as a middleweight. Patterson turned professional following the Olympics and became the youngest World Heavyweight Boxing Champion in history in 1956. After losing his title in 1959, he became the first man to regain the title in 1960. Patterson lost the title again in 1962 but continued to box until retiring in 1972 with a career record of 55 wins, 8 losses, and 1 draw. Patterson became chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. Patterson died May 11, 2006. He published his autobiography, "Victory Over Myself," in 1962. A biography, "Floyd Patterson: The Fighting Life of Boxing's Invisible Champion," was published in 2012.

January 4, 1937 Grace Bumbry, considered one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of her generation, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Bumbry won a competition singing the aria "O don fatale" at 17 but was denied the first-place prize scholarship to the local music conservatory because it did not accept Black students. She studied at Boston University, Northwestern University, and the Music Academy of the West before making her operatic debut in 1960. She gained international renown in 1961 when she was cast as Venus at Bayreuth in Germany, the first Black singer to appear there. Bumbry made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Princess Eboli in "Don Carlo" in 1965. She founded the Grace Bumbry Black Musical Heritage Ensemble in the 1990s to preserve and perform traditional Negro spirituals. She founded the Grace Bumbry Vocal and Opera Academy in Berlin, Germany in 2009. Bumbry received Kennedy Center Honors that same year.

January 4, 1937 Willie Jeffries, hall of fame coach and the first African American head football coach at a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1-A college, was born in Union, South Carolina. Jeffries earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering and master's degree in guidance and counseling from South Carolina State University. He began his coaching career at his alma mater in 1973. He became the head football coach at Division 1-A Wichita State University in 1979, a position he held for five seasons. He coached at Howard University from 1984 to 1988 and returned to South Carolina State in 1989 and coached until 2001. Jeffries compiled a record of 179 wins, 132 losses, and 6 draws over his career. He won three Black National Championships and seven Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championships. Jeffries was named head football coach emeritus at South Carolina State in 2010 and the football field was named in his honor. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame that same year.

January 4, 1958 Archie Alphonse Alexander, mathematician and engineer, died. Alexander was born May 14, 1888 in Ottumwa, Iowa but raised outside of Des Moines, Iowa. He attended the State University of Iowa (now University of Iowa) where his prowess on the football field earned him the nickname "Alexander the Great." Alexander earned his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering in 1912, the first African American to earn an engineering degree from the school. He formed his own company in 1917 and over the years was responsible for the construction of many roads and bridges around the country. Alexander received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Howard University in 1946. He was appointed Governor of the Virgin Islands by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954.

January 4, 1969 Paul Lawrence Dunbar Chambers, Jr., hall of fame jazz double bassist, died. Chambers was born April 22, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but raised in Detroit, Michigan. He started studying music as a young man and started formal bass training in 1952. Chambers moved to New York City soon after. He joined the Miles Davis quintet in 1955 and played on many of Davis' classic albums, including "Kind of Blue" (1959) and "Sketches of Spain" (1960). Chambers left Davis in 1963 and played with the Wynton Kelly trio until 1968. He also played on numerous other albums, including Thelonious Monk's "Brilliant Corners" (1956), John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" (1960), and Wes Montgomery's "Smokin' at the Half Note" (1965). Albums by Chambers as leader include "Chambers' Music" (1956), "Bass on Top" (1957), and "1st Bassman" (1960). Chambers was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2011.

January 4, 1982 William Landon "Gorilla" Jones, hall of fame boxer, died. Jones was born May 12, 1906 in Memphis, Tennessee. He started boxing professionally in 1923 and won the World Middleweight Boxing Championship in 1925. Jones lost the title later that year but continued boxing until retiring in 1940 with a record of 101 wins, 24 losses, and 13 draws. After retiring, he served as a chauffeur and bodyguard for the movie star Mae West and trained other boxers from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Jones was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.




Cyril Lionel Robert James

 Historian, journalist and author

Mathematician and engineer

The first Black female lawyer

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Today in Black History, 01/03/2016 | Edward William Brooke III

January 3, 2015 Edward William Brooke III, the first African American elected to the United States Senate by popular vote, died. Brooke was born October 26, 1919 in Washington, D. C. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in 1941 and his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1948 and Master of Laws degree in 1949 from Boston UniversityLaw School. Brooke was elected Attorney General of Massachusetts in 1962 and served two terms before being elected to the U. S. Senate in 1966. One of his major accomplishments in his two terms in the senate was co-authoring the 1968 Fair Housing Act which was signed into law April 11, 1968. Brooke was awarded the 1967 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. He was defeated in his run for a third term in 1978. The Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts was dedicated in 2000 and Edward W. Brooke Charter School in Boston opened in 2002. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush June 23, 2004 and received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. Brooke published

January 3, 1624 William Tucker, the first recorded African American born in the American colonies, was born in Jamestown, Virginia. Tucker was the child of enslaved Africans and was sold to an English sea captain named William Tucker. Nothing else is known of Tucker's life.

January 3, 1921 William Calvin Chase, newspaper editor and lawyer, died. Chase was born February 2, 1854 in Washington, D. C. He became editor of the Washington Bee in 1882 and turned the paper into one of the most influential African American newspapers in the country. He editorialized against lynching and the Atlanta Compromise position taken by Booker T. Washington. Chase remained editor of the newspaper until his death. He also attended Howard University Law School but did not get a degree. He studied privately and was admitted to the bar in Virginia and Washington, D. C. in 1889. Chase was also a District of Columbia delegate to the Republican national convention in 1900 and 1912. His biography, "Honey for Friends, Stings for Enemies," was published in 1973.

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. Ribbs won five races in the Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am Series in 1983 and was named Pro Rookie of the Year. He became the first Black person to drive a Formula One car in 1986. Ribbs joined the Championship Auto Racing Team circuit in 1990 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. He announced the formation of Willy T. Ribbs Racing in 2011 with the intent to become the first Black owner of a motor sports team.

January 3, 1962 Cheryl D. Miller, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Riverside, California. Miller was the first high school basketball player, male or female, to be named an All-American by Parade Magazine four times, was awarded the 1981 Dial Award as the national high school scholar/athlete of the year, and was the 1981 and 1982 National High School Player of the Year. She 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. USC retired her jersey number 31 in 1986, the first basketball jersey, male or female, retired by the school. Miller also led the United States women's basketball team to the Gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from USC in 1985. Miller suffered knee injuries in the late 1980s that prevented her from continuing her basketball playing career. She was an assistant coach at USC from 1986 to 1991 and the head coach from 1993 to 1995. She coached the Phoenix Mercury in the Women's National Basketball Association from 1997 to 2000 and has been a reporter for the National Basketball Association on the TNT television station since then. She also serves as head coach of the Langston University women's basketball team. She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, and was inducted into the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame in 2010.

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, 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 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, 1980 Joseph Amos Milburn, Jr., hall of fame R&B singer and pianist, died. Milburn was born April 1, 1927 in Houston, Texas. Milburn was playing the piano by five. He joined the United States Navy at 15 and earned 13 battle stars in the Philippines. Milburn recorded his debut single, "Amos Blues," in 1946 but became most popular with his upbeat songs about booze and partying. These included "Bad, Bad Whiskey" (1950), "Thinkin' and Drinkin'" (1952), and "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer" (1953). Albums by Milburn include "Let's Have A Party" (1957), "A Million Sellers" (1962), and "The Return Of The Blues Boss" (1963). Milburn was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010.

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.

January 3, 2012 Robert Lee Carter, civil rights activist and judge, died. Carter was born March 11, 1917 in Careyville, Florida but raised in Newark, New Jersey. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Lincoln University in 1937, his Bachelor of Laws degree from Howard University School of Law in 1940, and his Master of Laws degree from Columbia Law School in 1941. After completing his wartime service in the United States Army Air Corps, Carter went to work as a legal assistant to Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in 1944. He became assistant special counsel at the LDF in 1945 and general counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1956, a position he held until 1968. Carter won 21 of the 22 cases he argued or co-argued before the United States Supreme Court during his tenure. Carter was appointed Judge of the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1972. He was awarded the NAACP 2004 Spingarn Medal and published his autobiography, "A Matter of Law: A Memoir of Struggle in the Cause of Equal Rights," in 2005.

 



Joseph Amos Milburn, Jr

Hall of fame R&B singer and pianist

Civil rights activist and judge

Hall of fame basketball player

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Today in Black History, 12/26/2015 | Jackie Ormes

December 26, 1985 Jackie Ormes, the first African American female cartoonist, died. Ormes was born Zelda Mavin Jackson August 1, 1911 in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. She started in journalism as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier. Her one-panel comic strip "Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem" first appeared in the Courier in 1937. Ormes moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1942 and began writing articles and a social column for the Chicago Defender. Her one-panel cartoon "Candy" appeared in the Defender for a few months at the end of World War II. Ormes returned to the Courier in 1945 with the cartoon "Patty-Jo 'n' Ginger" which ran for eleven years. She contracted to have a Patty-Jo doll produced in 1947. It was the first African American doll to have an extensive upscale wardrobe. The dolls are highly sought after collectors' items today. She developed a multi-panel comic strip "Torchy in Heartbeats" in 1950 which ran until 1954. Ormes retired from cartooning in 1956 and devoted the remainder of her life to the Southside Chicago community, including being a founding member of the board of directors of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Her biography, "Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist," was published in 2008.

December 26, 1884 Felix Adolphe Eboue, French colonial administrator, was born in Cayenne, Guyana. Eboue was a brilliant scholar and won a scholarship to study in Bordeaux, France. After graduating in law from the Ecole Colonial in Paris, he served in Oubangui-Chari (now the Central African Republic) from 1909 to 1931. He was appointed secretary general of Martinique in 1932 and served until 1934 when he was transferred to the same position in French Sudan. Eboue was transferred to Chad in 1938 and served until 1940 when he was appointed general governor of all of French Equatorial Africa, a position he held until his death March 17, 1944. During his tenure as general governor, Eboue worked to improve the status of Africans. He placed some Gabonese civil servants into positions of authority and advocated the preservation of traditional African institutions. The French colonies in Africa produced a joint stamp issue in his memory after his death. Eboue's ashes are in The Pantheon of Paris, the first Black man to be so honored. His biography, "Eboue," was published in 1972.

December 26, 1894 Nathan Pinchback "Jean" Toomer, poet and novelist, was born in Washington, D. C. Toomer attended six institutions of higher education between 1914 and 1917, studying agriculture, fitness, biology, sociology, and history but never earned a degree. He then published some short stories and served as principal of a school in Georgia. Toomer published "Cane," a series of poems and short stories about the Black experience in America, in 1923. Critics hailed it as an important work of the Harlem Renaissance. The years between 1925 and 1935 were the most productive of Toomer's literary career. He completed the novel "The Gallonwerps" and the play "The Sacred Factory" in 1927. His long poem "The Blue Meridian" (1931) dramatically foreshadowed the racial discourse of the 21st century. Toomer stopped writing after 1950 and died March 30, 1967. His biography, "The Lives of Jean Toomer: A Hunger for Wholeness," was published in 1987.

December 26, 1908 John Arthur "Jack" Johnson became the first Black World Heavyweight Boxing Champion with a 14th round technical knockout of Tommy Burns. Johnson was born March 31, 1878 in Galveston, Texas. He had won at least 50 fights against White and Black opponents by 1902 and won the World "Colored" Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1903. After Johnson won the world heavyweight title, former undefeated champion James Jeffries came out of retirement "for the purpose of proving that a White man is better than a Negro." Johnson knocked out Jeffries in the 15th round of the "Fight of the Century" July 4, 1910. His win triggered riots in more than 50 cities. Johnson lost his title in 1915 but continued fighting professionally until 1938. He retired with a record of 73 wins, 13 losses, and 9 draws. Johnson received patent number 1,413,121 for an improved wrench for tightening loosened fastening devices April 18, 1922. Johnson died June 10, 1946. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. His life is the basis for the play and subsequent 1970 movie "The Great White Hope" and the 2005 documentary "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson." Johnson's biography, "Jack Johnson, In the Ring and Out," was published in 1977. A memoir by Johnson that was published in French was translated and published as "My Life and Battles" in 2009.

December 26, 1931 John Lee Love, inventor, died. Not much is known of Love's life except that he was the recipient of two patents. He received patent number 542,419 for an improved plasterer's hawk July 9, 1895. A plasterer's hawk is a flat square piece of board made of wood or metal upon which plaster or mortar is placed and then spread by plasterers or masons. Love designed one that was more portable with a detachable handle and foldable board made of aluminum. He received patent number 594,114 for a pencil sharpener that used a crank to shave off thin slices of wood from the pencil until a point was formed November 23, 1897. The shavings from the wood would stay inside the sharpener much like the sharpeners we use today.

December 26, 1934 Rudolph John Chauncey Fisher, physician and author, died. Fisher was born May 9, 1897 in Washington, D. C. but raised in Providence, Rhode Island. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and biology in 1919 and his Master of Arts degree in 1920 from Brown University. Fisher won several public speaking contests during his time at Brown, including first place at an intercollegiate contest at Harvard University in 1917. He also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Fisher earned his medical degree from Howard University Medical School, with highest honors, in 1924. He moved to New York City in 1925 and established a private medical practice. Fisher published his first short story, "City of Refuge," that same year. He went on to write two acclaimed novels, "The Walls of Jericho" (1928) and "The Conjure-Man Dies" (1932) which was the first published detective novel with a Black detective. Fisher is considered one of the major literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance. An anthology of his short stories, "City of Refuge: The Collected Stories of Rudolph Fisher," was published in 1991.

December 26, 1944 John Robert Fox, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died in action. Fox was born May 18, 1915 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Wilberforce University in 1940 with a Reserve Officer Training Corps commission of second lieutenant. In December, 1944, Fox was part of a small forward observer party that volunteered to stay behind in the Italian village of Sommocolonia. American forces had withdrawn from the village after it was overrun by German forces. Fox directed defensive artillery fire from his position on the second floor of a house. When the Germans attacked the small group of remaining Americans, Fox ordered artillery fire on his own position, killing him but delaying the advance of the enemy. His action permitted United States forces to organize a counterattack and regain control of the village. The citizens of Sommocolonia erected a monument to the nine men killed during the artillery barrage after the war, eight Italian soldiers and Fox. For his actions, Fox was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, America's second highest military decoration. A study commissioned by the U. S. Army in 1993 described systematic racial discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals during World War II. No Congressional Medal of Honor had been awarded to Black soldiers who served in the war. The study recommended that seven Black Distinguished Service Cross recipients have their awards upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration. Fox's widow received the medal from President William J. Clinton January 13, 1997. Hasbro introduced an action figure commemorating Lt. John R. Fox in 2005.

December 26, 1954 Osborne Earl "Ozzie" Smith, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Mobile, Alabama. Smith made his major league debut in 1978 with the San Diego Padres but spent most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was a 15-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove Award winner over his 18 season professional career. Smith retired from baseball in 1996 and served as host of the television show "This Week in Baseball" from 1997 to 1999. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1994 Branch Rickey Award for personifying service above self, the 1995 Roberto Clemente Award for best exemplifying the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team, and the Cardinals retired his uniform number 1 in 1996. Smith was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 and a statue of him was unveiled at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis August 11, 2002. Smith has been involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures and authored a children's book, "Hello, Fredbird!" (2006), since retiring. He also has been active in a number of charitable endeavors in the St. Louis area. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from California Polytechnic State University in 2003. He has published two autobiographies, "Wizard" (1988) and "Ozzie Smith – The Road to Cooperstown" (2002). The Ozzie Smith Sports Complex in O'Fallon, Missouri is named in his honor.

December 26, 1966 Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration honoring universal African heritage and culture, was first practiced in the United States. Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga and is observed annually from December 26 to January 1. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following seven principles; Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). The first Kwanzaa stamp was issued by the United States Postal Service in 1997 and a second stamp was issued in 2004.

December 26, 1999 Curtis Lee Mayfield, hall of fame singer, songwriter and record producer, died. Mayfield was born June 3, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. He dropped out of school in 1956 and joined The Roosters who two years later became The Impressions. Mayfield became the lead singer when Jerry Butler left the group. The Impressions were successful with a string of Mayfield composions, including "Gypsy Woman" (1961), "Keep on Pushing" (1964), "People Get Ready" (1965), and "Check Out Your Mind" (1970). Mayfield also wrote and produced scores of hits for other artists, including Jerry Butler's "He Will Break Your Heart" (1960), Gene Chandler's "Bless Our Love" (1964), The Staple Singers' "Let's Do It Again" (1975), and Aretha Franklin's "Something He Can Feel" (1976). Mayfield left The Impressions in 1970 to begin a solo career and to found an independent record label. He released the album "Super Fly" in 1972 and it was the soundtrack for the film of the same title and one of the most influential albums in history. It is listed at 69 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." This led to other movie soundtracks, including "Claudine" (1974), "Sparkle" (1976), and "A Piece of the Action" (1977). Mayfield was paralyzed after stage lighting fell on him at an outdoor concert in 1990. He received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1990, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. He was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2000 and as a member of The Impressions was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.

December 26, 2004 Reginald Howard White, hall of fame football player, died. White was born December 19, 1961 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He played for the University of Tennessee from 1980 to 1983 was an All-American in 1983. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in human services, he signed with the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League and after that league folded in 1985 signed with the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. White was a 12-time All Pro selection and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and 1998 over the next 15 seasons. White was known as "the Minister of Defense" because of his strong Christian beliefs and his play on the field. After retiring from football, he served as an associate minister at a church in Knoxville, Tennessee. During the 2005 football season the University of Tennessee, Philadelphia Eagles, and Green Bay Packers all retired White's uniform number. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Reggie White Boulevard in Chattanooga and Reggie White Way in Green Bay, Wisconsin are named in his honor.

December 26, 2009 Percy Ellis Sutton, lawyer, civil rights activist and political and business leader, died. Sutton was born November 24, 1920 in San Antonio, Texas. Sutton served as an intelligence officer with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. He attended Prairie View University, Tuskegee Institute, and Hampton Institute before earning his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1950. Sutton represented Malcolm X until his death in 1965 and Betty Shabazz until her death in 1997. He served in the New York State Assembly from 1964 to 1966 and was instrumental in getting funding to establish the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He served as Manhattan Borough President from 1966 to 1977. Sutton co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971 and it purchased New York City's first African American owned radio station. Sutton served as president of the corporation from 1972 to 1991. He purchased and initiated the revitalization of the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1980 and began producing the television show, "Showtime at the Apollo" in 1987. Sutton was awarded the 1987 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal.

December 26, 2012 Fontella Bass, soul singer, died. Bass was born July 3, 1940 in St. Louis, Missouri. She showed great musical talent at an early age. She was providing piano accompaniment for her grandmother's singing at five and was accompanying her mother on gospel tours through the South by nine. Bass started her professional career at 17, working in clubs in her hometown. She was hired to back Little Milton on piano for concerts and recordings in 1961. She signed with Chess Records in 1965 and recorded "Rescue Me" which sold over a million copies and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." Other more moderate hits by Bass released in 1966 include "Recovery," "I Can't Rest," and "You'll Never Know." Bass retired from music in 1972 to concentrate on raising her family. She returned in 1990 with a gospel album titled "Promises: A Family Portrait of Faith." Her 1995 album "No Ways Tired" was nominated for the Best Traditional Soul Gospel Grammy Award. Her last album, "Travelin," was recorded in 2001. Bass was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2000 and received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 2001.



 Lawyer, civil rights activist and political and business leader

 Hall of fame singer, songwriter and record producer

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Today in Black History, 12/25/2015 | Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert

December 25, 1853 Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert, author, was born enslaved in Oglethorpe, Georgia. Albert was emancipated after the Civil War and attended Atlanta University where she studied to be a teacher. She moved to Louisiana in 1874 and began to conduct interviews with men and women previously enslaved. Albert was a skilled interviewer and writer and was able to convey on paper the powerful recollections of these people. These narratives became the material for "The House of Bondage or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves." Albert died around 1890 and the book was published in 1891. Her goal in writing the book was to tell the story of the previously enslaved as well as to "correct and create history."

December 25, 1745 Joseph Bologne the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, musician, swordsman and equestrian, was born 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. He was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs in 1771 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 and commanded a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute June 10, 1799. 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).

December 25, 1760 "An Evening Thought, Salvation, by Christ, with Penitential Cries" by Jupiter Hammon was published. This made Hammon the first African American published writer in America (several years earlier Phyllis Wheatley's poems had been published in England). Hammon was born enslaved October 17, 1711 in Long Island, New York. Unlike most enslaved people, he was allowed to attend school and could read and write. Hammon delivered his "Address to the Negroes of the State of New York" September 24, 1786 in which he stated "If we should ever get to heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being Black, or for being slaves." He also said that Black people should maintain their high moral standards precisely because slaves on earth had already secured their place in heaven. He had published at least three other poems and three sermons by the time he was eighty. Hammon died enslaved around 1806. A full account of Hammon, including a biographical sketch, poems, and critical analysis of his works, can be found in "America's First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island" (1983) and "Jupiter Hammon and the Biblical Beginnings of African American Literature" (1993).

December 25, 1807 Charles Bennett Ray, abolitionist, clergyman and journalist, was born in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Ray enrolled as the first Black student at Wesleyan University in 1832 but was not allowed to attend due to protests from White students. He then moved to New York City and became a minister serving two predominantly White churches. Ray became involved in the abolitionist movement about that time and became a prominent promoter of the Underground Railroad. He was also co-founder and director of the New York Vigilance Committee and a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Ray became owner of The Colored American, a weekly publication whose mission was "to promote the moral, social and political elevation of the free colored people; and the peaceful emancipation of the slaves," in 1838. Ray died August 15, 1886.

December 25, 1831 The Baptist War began in Jamaica. The war was led by Baptist preacher Samuel Sharpe and was waged largely, though not only, by his enslaved Baptist followers. It started as a peaceful protest demanding more freedom and a working wage. When those demands were not met, it escalated to the largest uprising in the British West Indies, lasting 10 days and involving more than 50,000 enslaved participants. The revolt was ended by British forces with approximately 200 enslaved Africans and 14 White people killed. After the revolt, an additional 300 enslaved Africans were killed through various forms of judicial executions. Although the revolt was unsuccessful, it is widely thought that it increased the pressure for unconditional emancipation in Jamaica which happened in 1838.

December 25, 1834 James Sidney Hinton, the first Black member of the Indiana State Legislature, was born in North Carolina. Hinton moved with his parents to Terre Haute, Indiana in 1848 and worked as a barber. He volunteered for the Union Army when the Civil War started, was promoted to second lieutenant, and actively recruited other African Americans. He moved to Indianapolis, Indiana after the war and was elected a delegate to the 1872 Republican National Convention. Hinton was later appointed a trustee of Indiana's Wabash and Erie Canal Fund, the first African American to hold a state office. He was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1880 and served one term. Hinton continued to work as a barber throughout his political career. Hinton died November 6, 1892. A bust of Hinton was unveiled at the Indiana Statehouse January 16, 2014.

December 25, 1846 Moses Aaron Hopkins, clergyman and educator, was born enslaved in Montgomery County, Virginia. Hopkins worked as a cook in Union Army camps during the Civil War. He learned to read at 20, graduated from Lincoln University, and enrolled at Auburn Theological Seminary. Hopkins earned his degree in theology in 1877, the first African American graduate of the seminary, and was ordained by the Presbyterian Church that same year. He eventually settled in Franklinton, North Carolina where he founded Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church and Albion Academy. President S. Grover Cleveland appointed Hopkins United States Minister (ambassador) to Liberia in 1885 where he served until his death August 7, 1886. A North Carolina State Historical Marker in Hopkins' honor was unveiled in Franklinton in 1959.

December 25, 1863 Robert Blake was serving on the USS Marblehead during the Civil War when it came under attack by Confederate guns. Although he had no assigned combat role and could have retreated to safety below deck, when an exploding shell knocked him down and killed a powder boy manning one of the guns, Blake took over the powder boy's duties running powder boxes to the gun loaders. For his actions, Blake became the first African American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration, April 16, 1864. Blake was born enslaved in South Santee, South Carolina. His owner's plantation was burned down by the Union Navy in 1862 and he and 400 other enslaved people were taken as contraband. Blake volunteered to serve in the Union Navy. Nothing is known of his life after receiving the medal.

December 25, 1870 Henry McKee Minton, physician and founder of Sigma Pi Phi, was born in Columbia, South Carolina. Minton graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1891, earned his Graduate in Pharmacy degree from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (now University of the Sciences in Philadelphia) in 1895, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Jefferson Medical College (now Thomas Jefferson University) in 1906. He opened the first pharmacy operated by an African American in Pennsylvania in 1897. Minton was one of the founders of Mercy Hospital in 1907 and was appointed superintendent of the hospital in 1920. More than 200 Black interns were trained at Mercy during his 24 year tenure. Minton was on the staff of the University of Pennsylvania's Henry Phipps Institute from 1915 until his death December 29, 1946 and was a recognized authority on tuberculosis. Minton founded Sigma Pi Phi (the Boule) in 1904 to "bind men of like qualities, tastes and attainments into close sacred union, that they might know the best of one another."

December 25, 1875 Charles Caldwell was assassinated in Clinton, Mississippi. Caldwell was born enslaved near Clinton and emancipated at the end of the Civil War. He was elected to the Mississippi Constitutional Convention in 1868 and helped draft the state constitution. He was elected a Mississippi State Senator soon after. The Clinton Riot occurred in September, 1875 during a political rally of about 3,000 people. The riot was racially motivated and a backlash to the Reconstruction Movement. Approximately 50 people were killed, mostly African American. Caldwell was lured into a store for a friendly drink Christmas night of that year and shot in the back. His last words were "never say you killed a coward, you killed a gentleman and a brave man."

December 25, 1887 Emmanuel Stance, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Stance was born in 1847 in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. He worked as a sharecropper prior to joining the United States Army. He enlisted in the army in October, 1866 and within ten months was promoted to sergeant. On May 20, 1870, while serving in Company F of the 9th Cavalry at Fort McKavett, he led a detachment of ten privates to return two White boys who had been kidnapped by Apaches. For his bravery on this mission, Stance was cited for "gallantry on scout after Indians" and received the medal, America's highest military decoration June 28, 1870. Stance remained in the army, reaching the rank of first sergeant, until his death.

December 25, 1903 George W. Lee, minister, entrepreneur and civil rights activist, was born in Edwards, Mississippi. Lee accepted a call to preach in Belzoni, Mississippi in the early 1930s. Over time, he led four churches, opened a grocery store, and set up a printing business. He co-founded the Belzoni branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1953. Lee was also the vice president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, an organization that promoted self-help, business, and voting rights. Less than a month after delivering a speech at the organization's annual meeting, Lee was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant May 7, 1955. No charges were ever brought against anyone for the murder.

December 25, 1907 Cabell "Cab" Calloway III, hall of fame jazz singer and bandleader, was born in Rochester, New York. After graduating from high school, Calloway joined his sister in a touring production of the Black musical revue "Plantation Days." He assumed leadership of his orchestra in 1930 and they became the co-host band at the Cotton Club in New York City and began touring nationally. He recorded his most famous song, "Minnie the Moocher," in 1931 and as a result of the chorus became known as "The Hi De Ho Man." He appeared in the 1933 film "International House" and performed his classic song "Reefer Man," a tune about a man who favors marijuana cigarettes. Other film appearances include "Stormy Weather" (1943), "Porgy and Bess" (1952), and "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965). His autobiography, "Of Minnie The Moocher And Me," was published in 1976. The Cab Calloway Museum at Copin State College was established in the 1980s and the Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, Delaware was dedicated in 1994. Calloway was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1987 and was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President William J. Clinton October 7, 1993. Calloway died November 18, 1994. His recording of "Minnie the Moocher" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance" and he was posthumously honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. His biography, "Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway," was published in 2010.

December 25, 1907 Rufus Paul Turner, engineer, educator and author, was born in Houston, Texas. Turner began working with crystal diodes at 15 and published his first article on radio electronics at 17. He built what was then the world's smallest radio in 1925 and was awarded a commercial radio operator's license, the first licensed to a Black broadcaster in the United States. Turner held a number of engineering positions over the years and taught electronics at a vocational school and the University of Rhode Island. He published 40 books, including "Radio Test Instruments" (1945) and "Illustrated Dictionary of Electronics" (1980), and 3,000 articles over his career. Turner became interested in literature in the 1950s and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from California State College in 1958 and his Master of Arts degree in English in 1960 and Ph. D. in 1966 from the University of Southern California. He served as an English professor at California State from 1960 to 1973. Turner died March 25, 1982.

December 25, 1949 Joe Louis Walker, hall of fame blues guitarist, singer and composer, was born in San Francisco, California. Walker began playing the guitar at eight and was well-known within the Bay Area music scene by 16. In his early years, he played with many blues legends, including John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, and Muddy Waters. Walker left the blues scene in 1975 and for the next 10 years performed with The Spiritual Corinthians Gospel Quartet. During this time, he earned his bachelor's degree in music and English from San Francisco State University. Walker returned to the blues with his debut album, "Cold Is The Night," in 1986. He has recorded more than 20 albums, including "Blues Survivor" (1993), "Ridin' High" (2003), "Hellfire" (2012), and "Everybody Wants A Piece" (2015). He also played on James Cotton's "Deep in the Blues" which won the 1996 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. Walker was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013.

December 25, 1951 Harry Tyson Moore, teacher and civil rights pioneer, and his wife were killed on their 25th wedding anniversary by a bomb that went off beneath their home in Mims, Florida. Moore was born November 18, 1905 in Houston, Florida and graduated from Florida Memorial College (now University) with a Normal degree in 1925. He worked as a teacher and principal at several schools from 1925 to 1946. The Moores founded the Brevard County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1934 and he filed the first lawsuit in the deep South to equalize salaries of Black teachers with White teachers in public schools in 1937. Moore also led the Progressive Voters League from 1944 to 1950 and during that time registered more than 100,000 Black people to vote. The public school system fired the Moores in 1946 and blacklisted them because of his political activism. Moore was posthumously awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP in 1952. Florida designated the home site of the Moores a Florida Historical Heritage Landmark in 1999 and Brevard County created the Harry T. and Harriette Moore Memorial Park and Interpretive Center at the home site in 2004. The state of Florida concluded in 2006 that the Moores were victims of a conspiracy by members of a Central Florida Klaven of the Ku Klux Klan and four individuals, all deceased, were named. "Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America's First Civil Rights Martyr," was published in 1999.

December 25, 1954 Johnny Ace, rhythm and blues singer, accidentally killed himself while playing with a loaded gun. Ace was born John Marshall Alexander, Jr. June 9, 1929 in Memphis, Tennessee. After serving in the navy during the Korean War, Ace played piano in several bands, including the B. B. King band. Ace took over vocal duties when King left the band and renamed the band The Beale Streeters. He released his debut recording, "My Song," in 1952 and it topped the R&B charts for nine weeks. He had eight hits in a row in the next two years, including "Cross My Heart" (1953), "Please Forgive Me" (1954), "Yes Baby" (1954), and "Never Let Me Go" (1954). Ace was named the Most Programmed Artist of 1954 by trade weekly Cash Box. Three of his 1954 recordings sold more than 1,750,000 records. Ace's funeral was attended by an estimated 5,000 people. His last recording, "Pledging My Love," was posthumously released in 1955 and topped the R&B charts for ten weeks. Ace's biography, "The Late, Great Johnny Ace and the Transition from R&B to Rock and Roll," was published in 1999.

December 25, 1958 Richard Nelson Henley Henderson, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Chicago, Illinois but grew up in Oakland, California. Henderson graduated from Oakland Technical High School, where he played baseball, basketball, and was an All-American football running back, in 1976. He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics that same year and made his major league debut with the team in 1979. Henderson was a 10-time All-Star, 1981 Gold Glove Award winner, and 1990 American League Most Valuable Player over his 25 season professional career. He holds the major league records for career stolen bases, single season stolen bases, runs scored, unintentional walks, and leadoff home runs. He is widely regarded as baseball's greatest leadoff hitter. Henderson retired in 2003 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009. He published his autobiography, "Off Base: Confessions of a Thief," in 1993.

December 25, 1959 Michael Phillip Anderson, NASA astronaut, was born in Plattsburgh, New York. Anderson earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Washington in 1981 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. After graduating from Undergraduate Pilot Training, he was assigned to the 2nd Airborne Command and Control Squadron as an EC 135 pilot. He logged over 3,000 hours in various models of aircraft. Anderson earned his Master of Science degree in physics in 1990 from Creighton University and was selected for training by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1994. After completing training, he was qualified for flight crew assignment as a mission specialist. Anderson was a member of the crew for STS-89 Endeavour in 1998 which logged 211 hours in space. Anderson was killed, along with the rest of the crew of STS-107 Columbia, February 1, 2003 when the craft disintegrated after reentry into the earth's atmosphere. He logged a total of 593 hours in space. Anderson Elementary School on Fairchild Air Force Base outside of Spokane, Washington and Michael Anderson Elementary School in Avondale, Arizona are named in his honor.

December 25, 1966 Saint Elmo Brady, the first African American to earn a Ph. D. in chemistry in the United States and educator, died. Brady was born December 22, 1884 in Louisville, Kentucky. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Fisk University in 1908 and his Master of Science degree in 1914 and Ph. D. in 1916 from the University of Illinois. He was the first African American admitted to Phi Lambda Upsilon, the chemistry honor society, and one of the first African Americans inducted into Sigma Xi, the science honorary society. Brady taught chemistry at Tuskegee Institute from 1916 to 1920, at Howard University from 1920 to 1927, and at Fisk from 1927 to his retirement in 1952. After retiring, he established the chemistry department and taught at Tougaloo College.

December 25, 1985 Edward Taylor, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. Taylor was born January 29, 1923 in Benoit, Mississippi. He got his first guitar at 13 and taught himself to play. Taylor moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1949 and over the years performed and recorded with Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, and many other Chicago blues performers. Albums by Taylor as leader include "I Feel So Bad – The Blues of Eddie Taylor" (1972), "Ready for Eddie" (1975), and "Big Town Playboy" (1981). Taylor was one of the most influential guitarist on the Chicago blues scene although he never achieved the stardom of some of his peers. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1987.

December 25, 2006 James Joseph Brown, Jr., hall of fame singer, songwriter and "The Godfather of Soul," died. Brown was born May 3, 1933 in Branwell, South Carolina. He dropped out of school in the seventh grade and earned money shining shoes and other odd jobs. He joined The Flames in 1955 and their first recording, "Please, Please, Please" (1956), sold more than a million copies. Brown returned to the charts in 1958 with "Try Me" which was the best-selling R&B single of the year and the first of 17 number one R&B singles by Brown over the next two decades. While successful in the R&B world, Brown was not known nationally until the release of his self-financed 1963 album "Live at the Apollo." Because his record company refused to promote his records beyond the "Black" market, Brown co-founded his own production company to promote his records to White audiences. As a result, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (1965), which won the Grammy Award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording, and "I Got You (I Feel Good)" (1965) were his first top 10 pop hits. Other hits by Brown include "Cold Sweat" (1967), "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine)" (1970), "Get Up Offa That Thing" (1976), and "Living in America" (1985) which won the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Brown was known for his social activism during the late 1960s and early 1970s, recording songs such as "Don't Be a Drop-Out" (1966) and "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" (1968) and performing benefit concerts for various civil rights organizations. His 1968 performance in front of a televised audience in Boston, Massachusetts the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. is documented in the PBS film "The Night James Brown Saved Boston." Brown received a number of awards and honors, including being one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, Kennedy Center Honors in 2003, and induction into the United Kingdom Music Hall of Fame in 2006. The city of Augusta, Georgia unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Brown May 3, 2005. Brown is recognized as one of the most influential figures in 20th century popular music. Six of his recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as recordings of "lasting qualitative or historical significance," the album "Live at the Apollo" in 1998, "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" in 1999, "Please, Please, Please" in 2001, "It's A Man's Man's World" (1966) in 2010, "I Got You (I Feel Good)" in 2013, and "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine)" in 2014. "Cold Sweat" will be inducted in 2016. He published his autobiography, "The Godfather of Soul," in 1990.

December 25, 2008 Eartha Mae Kitt, singer, actress and cabaret star, died. Kitt was born January 17, 1927 in North, South Carolina. She began her career as a member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and made her film debut in "Casbah" in 1948. A talented singer, Kitt's hits include "Let's Do It" (1953), "C'est si bon" (1953), and her most recognized song "Santa Baby" (1953). Kitt had her first starring role on Broadway in 1950 as Helen of Troy in "Dr. Faustus. She also appeared in "St. Louis Blues" (1958) and "Anna Lucasta" (1959). She appeared as Catwoman in the television series "Batman" in the 1960s. She was invited to the White House in 1968 and after being asked by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War, she replied "you send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed, no wonder the kids rebel and take pot." The response led to a derailment of Kitt's career and caused her to primarily perform in Europe and Asia. She made a triumphant return in the 1978 Broadway musical "Timbuktu" and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Kitt wrote three autobiographies, "Thursday Child" (1956), "Alone With Me" (1976), and "I'm Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten" (1989).

December 25, 2008 Frank "Tick" Coleman, educator and community volunteer, died. Coleman was born February 29, 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Central High School where he was the first African American to quarterback their football team and led them to the public school championships in 1929 and 1930. He was also the first African American member of the All-Scholastic High School Football Team in 1928. His football helmet and shoes are in the collection of the African American Museum of Philadelphia. Coleman attended Lincoln University where he was varsity football quarterback, class president for three years, and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1935. Coleman worked as a youth counselor for the School District of Philadelphia from 1949 to his retirement in 1981. He earned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1959. Coleman mentored hundreds of young people in the Black community as a guidance counselor and through Lincoln University and helped finance their education through scholarships that he funded. He also dedicated many years to bringing scouting to underprivileged youth. The Boy Scouts of America created the Dr. Frank "Tick" Coleman National Service Award to honor his years of service.


 Singer, actress and cabaret star

 The first African American to earn a Ph. D. in chemistry in the United States

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Today in Black History, 12/24/2015 | Levi Jenkins Coppin

December 24, 1848 Levi Jenkins Coppin, missionary, editor and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Frederick Town, Maryland. His mother taught him to read and write. Coppin moved to Wilmington, Delaware at 17 and received his license to preach in 1876. He became editor of the A. M. E. Church Review in 1888 and held that position until 1896. Coppin became a bishop of the A. M. E. Church in 1900 and was assigned to Cape Town, South Africa in 1902 where he organized the Bethel Institute. He returned to the United States in 1912. Coppin died June 25, 1924. His autobiography, "Unwritten History," was published in 1919.

December 24, 1866 William Henry Barnes, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Barnes was born in 1840 or 1845 in Saint Mary's County, Maryland. He worked as a farmer before enlisting in the Union Army as a private in Company C of the 38th United States Colored Infantry Regiment in 1864. On September 29 of that year at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm, his regiment was among a division of Black troops that attacked the center of the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights. The attack was met with intense Confederate fire and over 50 percent of the Black troops were killed, wounded, or captured. Barnes was awarded the medal, America's highest military decoration, for being "among the first to enter the enemy's works; although wounded," April 6, 1865. Barnes was promoted to sergeant in July, 1865 and remained in the army until his death.

December 24, 1881 The Order of True Reformers was founded by William Washington Browne in Richmond, Virginia. The Order was a fraternal organization of African Americans in southern states organized for the purpose of setting up business and social avenues in which Negroes could participate. Several prosperous business enterprises came out of The Order, including those that sold insurance to Black people when other companies refused. A savings bank was established in 1888 and a real estate department was formed in 1892. This was the beginning of the Negro businessman in insurance and banking. They began publishing a bimonthly newspaper in January, 1893. The Order received a charter for the Reformers' Mercantile and Industrial Association in 1899 to manufacture, buy and sell, groceries, goods and articles of merchandise of any description. The story of the organization was told in "The Black Lodge in White America: True Reformer Browne and His Economic Strategy" which was published in 1994.

December 24, 1898 Warren "Baby" Dodds, hall of fame jazz drummer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dodds gained a reputation as a top young drummer in New Orleans and worked on Mississippi River steamship bands with Louis Armstrong. He moved to California in 1921 to work with Joe "King" Oliver and then followed him to Chicago, Illinois. Dodds is regarded as one of the best jazz drummers of the pre-big band era and he revolutionized the drum kit by inventing the floor bass or "kick drum." He was also probably the first jazz drummer to record unaccompanied. Dodds died February 14, 1959. He was posthumously inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2007. A biography, "The Baby Dodds Story," was published in 1959.

December 24, 1920 Dave Bartholomew, hall of fame composer, arranger, musician and band leader, was born in Edgard, Louisiana. Bartholomew has been active in many musical genres but his partnership with Fats Domino produced some of his greatest successes. They wrote and recorded more than 40 hit songs together, including "Goin' Home" (1952), "Ain't That a Shame" (1855), "Blue Monday" (1956), and "I'm Walkin'" (1957). There recording "The Fat Man" (1949) will be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2016 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." He was also responsible for the arrangements on Domino's "Blueberry Hill" (1956), which is listed number 81 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time. Bartholomew also wrote "I Hear You Knocking" for Gale Storm in 1955 and "One Night" for Elvis Presley in 1983. He produced "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" (1952) with Lloyd Price and "Let the Good Times Roll" (1956) with Shirley & Lee. Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1996, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2007.

December 24, 1929 Edward Christopher Williams, the first African American professional librarian in the United States and author, died. Williams was born February 11, 1871 in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Adelbert College of Western Reserve University in 1892. He was appointed assistant librarian at Hatch Library at WRU after graduating and two years later was promoted to librarian, a position he held until 1909. Williams earned his master's degree in librarianship at New York State Library in 1898. He was appointed principal of M Street High School (now Dunbar High School) in Washington D. C. in 1909. He served there until 1916 when he was appointed head librarian of Howard University, a position he held for 13 years. He also served as professor of bibliography and instructor of German language. Williams was also proficient in French, Italian, and Spanish. He was a founding member of the Ohio Library Association and served as secretary in 1904. He also served as vice president of the New York State Library School Association that year. Williams authored and translated many articles, poems, and short stories. American Libraries named him one of the 100 Most Important Leaders We Had in the 20th Century in 1999.

December 24, 1937 Violette Neatly Anderson, the first African American woman admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, died. Anderson was born July 16, 1882 in London, England but raised in Chicago, Illinois. She worked as a court reporter from 1905 to 1920 and this sparked her interest in the law. She earned her Bachelor of Laws degree from the Chicago Law School in 1920 and served as the first female prosecutor in Chicago from 1922 to 1923. Anderson was admitted to practice before the U. S. Supreme Court January 29, 1926 but never argued a case before the court. In addition to her legal practice, she was the first vice president of the Cook County Bar Association and was a member of the executive board of the Chicago Council of Social Agencies. Anderson was also the eighth Grand Basileus of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

December 24, 1959 Lee Louis Daniels, film producer and director, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Daniels earned his bachelor's degree from Lindenwood University. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles, California and started a nurse placement agency. He had 5,000 nurses affiliated with the agency when he sold it. Daniels began his career in entertainment as a casting director and manager. He created his own production company, Lee Daniels Entertainment, and produced his first film, "Monster's Ball," in 2001. That film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Daniels made his directorial debut with "Shadowboxer" in 2005. He produced and directed the 2009 film "Precious" which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Daniels was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. Daniels most recent directorial effort was "Lee Daniels' The Butler" in 2013. He created the television series "Empire" which premiered in 2015. Daniels was included on Time magazine's 2015 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

December 24, 1989 Ernest Nathan "Dutch" Morial, the first African American Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, died. Morial was born October 9, 1929 in New Orleans. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University in 1951 and his Juris Doctor degree from Louisiana State University in 1954, the first African American to earn a law degree from that institution. Morial served two years with the United States Army Intelligence Corps during the mid-1950s. He came to prominence during the 1960s as a lawyer fighting segregation and as president of the New Orleans Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1962 to 1965. Morial was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1967, the first Black member since Reconstruction, where he served one term. He became the first Black Juvenile Court judge in Louisiana in 1970 and the first Black person elected to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in 1974. Morial was elected Mayor of New Orleans in 1977 and served two terms. During his tenure, the proportion of Black city employees increased from 40% to 53% and the proportion of Black police officers increased to 33%. He also served as president of the U. S. Conference of Mayors from 1982 to 1986. The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the Ernest N. Morial Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Disease Center at Louisiana State University, and Ernest N. Morial Elementary School are all named in his honor.



Hall of fame composer, arranger, musician and band leader

The first African American Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana

The first African American woman admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court

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Today in Black History, 12/23/2015 | Henry Highland Garnet



December 23, 1815 Henry Highland Garnet, orator, educator and abolitionist, was born enslaved near New Market, Maryland. Garnet's family escaped to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1824. They subsequently moved to New York City where Garnet attended the African Free School and the Phoenix High School for Colored Youth from 1826 to 1833. Garnet went on to graduate, with honors, from the Oneida Theological Institute of Whitesboro in 1839. He later joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and frequently spoke at abolitionist conferences. He delivered one of his most famous speeches, "Call to Rebellion," to the National Negro Convention August 21, 1843. In that speech, he called for the enslaved to act for themselves to achieve total emancipation. Garnet began to support emigration of Black people to Mexico, Liberia, or the West Indies by 1849 and founded the African Civilization Society. He became the first Black minister to preach to the United States House of Representatives February 12, 1865 when he spoke about the end of slavery. He was appointed president of Avery College in 1868 and was appointed U. S. Minister to Liberia in 1881. Garnet died February 13, 1882. The Henry Highland Garnet School for Success in Harlem, New York and the HHG Elementary School in Chestertown, Maryland are named in his honor. His biographies include "Henry Highland Garnet: A Voice of Black Radicalism in the Nineteenth Century" (1977) and "Rise Now and Fly to Arms: The Life of Henry Highland Garnet" (1995).

December 23, 1867 Madam C. J. Walker, hall of fame businesswoman and philanthropist, was born Sarah Breedlove in Delta, Louisiana. Walker founded the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company in 1906 to manufacture and sell hair care products and cosmetics and it was the largest business in the nation owned by a Black person by 1917. She was quoted as saying, "There is no royal, flower strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life, it is because I have been willing to work hard." The Guinness Book of Records cites Walker as the first female to become a millionaire by her own achievements. Walker saw her personal wealth not as an end in itself but as a means to promote economic opportunities for others. She was known for her philanthropy and after her death May 25, 1919 left two-thirds of her estate to educational institutions and charities, including the Tuskegee Institute and Bethune-Cookman College. Her $5,000 pledge to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's anti-lynching campaign was the largest gift the organization had received at that time. Walker was posthumously inducted into the Junior Achievement U. S. Business Hall of Fame in 1992 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 1998. Her biographies include "Madam C. J. Walker: Building a Business Empire" (1994), "The Black Rose: The Dramatic Story of Madam C. J. Walker, America's First Black Female Millionaire" (2001), and "Madam C. J. Walker, Entrepreneur" (2008). Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

December 23, 1883 Dixie Kid, hall of fame boxer, was born Aaron Lister Brown in Fulton, Missouri. Kid won the World Welterweight Boxing Championship in 1904 and held the title until 1908. He retired from boxing in 1920 with a record of 80 wins, 29 losses, and 12 draws. Little is known of his life after retiring. Kid died April 6, 1934. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002.

December 23, 1919 Alice H. Parker of Morristown, New Jersey received patent number 1,325,905 for a new and improved heating furnace for houses and other buildings. Her furnace used gas as the fuel and employed multiple heating units which allowed the heating of rooms or floors to be regulated as required. Not much else is known of Parker's life.

December 23, 1930 Herman Jerome Russell, entrepreneur, philanthropist and community leader, was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Russell bought his first property while still in high school and used it to provide funding to attend Tuskegee Institute (now University) where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in building construction in 1953. He returned to Atlanta and inherited his father's plastering business in 1957. Russell expanded the business throughout the 1960s and 1970s to include home building, real estate investments, and other large scale projects such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Georgia Dome, and Turner Field. H. J. Russell and Company is today the largest minority owned real estate firm in the United States. Russell was also active in the Civil Rights Movement, although usually behind the scenes, providing advice and funding and serving on the board of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He was the first Black member and second Black president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. The Herman J. Russell Sr. International Center for Entrepreneurship at Georgia State University is named in his honor. He received the Horatio Alger Award in 1991. Russell died November 15, 2014.

December 23, 1935 Esther Mae Jones Phillips, R&B vocalist, was born in Galveston, Texas. Phillips won an amateur talent contest in 1949 and began touring as Little Esther Phillips. She recorded her first hit record, "Double Crossing Blues," in 1950 and that was followed by other hits such as "Mistrusting Blues," "Misery," and "Wedding Boogie." Few female artists had ever enjoyed such success in their debut year of recording. But just as quickly as the hits started, the hits stopped. Phillips launched a comeback in 1962 with the release of "Release Me" which went to number one on the R&B charts. She released the album "From a Whisper to a Scream" in 1972 and it was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance – Female, with the lead track "Home is Where the Hatred Is." Phillips scored her biggest hit single in 1975 with "What a Difference a Day Makes" which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance - Female. Phillips died August 7, 1984.

December 23, 1936 William Vernell "Willie" Wood, Sr., hall of fame football player, was born in Washington, D. C. Wood played college football at the University of Southern California where he was the first African American quarterback in Pacific-10 Conference history. Wood was not selected in the 1960 National Football League Draft but was signed by the Green Bay Packers as a free agent defensive back. Wood was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection over his 12 season professional career. Wood was selected to the NFL 1960s All – Decade Team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. Wood was named head coach of the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League in 1973, the first African American head coach in the modern era of professional football. He was hired as head coach of the Toronto Argonauts in 1980, the first Black head coach in the Canadian Football League. He held that position for two seasons. Wood is currently disabled and living in an assisted living facility. Willie Wood Way in Washington, D. C. is named in his honor.

December 23, 1981 Samuel Lee Kountz, Jr., the first person to successfully transpant a kidney between people who were not identical twins, died. Kountz was born October 30, 1930 in Lexa, Arkansas. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree, third in his class, in chemistry from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) in 1952, his Master of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of Arkansas in 1956, and his Medical Degree from the University of Arkansas Medical Center's School of Medicine (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) in 1958. While a resident at the Stanford University School of Medicine, he successfully transplanted a kidney from a donor to a recipient who were not identical twins in 1961. Over his career, Kountz performed more than 500 kidney transplants, the most performed by any physician in the world at that time. He performed a kidney transplant live on "The Today Show" in 1976 that resulted in 20,000 viewers offering their kidneys to patients who needed them. He also made the discovery that high doses of a steroid hormone, methylprednisolone, arrested the rejection of transplanted kidneys. This led directly to the current drug regimens that make organ transplants from unrelated donors routine. Kountz had a number of academic and clinical appointments with leading institutions around the country. He wrote 76 professional papers and served as president of the Society of University Surgeons in 1974. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the University of California in 1970 and honorary Doctor of Laws degrees by University of Arkansas in 1973 and Howard University in 1975. The World's First International Symposium on Renal Failure in Blacks was dedicated in his honor in 1985 and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People give an annual award in his honor to an outstanding Black student in the sciences.

December 23, 1987 Healy Hall, the flagship building on the main campus of Georgetown University, was declared a National Historic Landmark. The building is named for Patrick Francis Healy, the first American of African ancestry to be president of a predominantly White college. Healy oversaw the construction of the building between 1877 and 1879 and it is still in use. Healy was born enslaved February 27, 1830 in Macon, Georgia. Although he was at least three-quarters European in ancestry, he was legally considered a slave and Georgia law prohibited the education of slaves. Healy's father therefore arranged for him to move north to obtain an education. Healy graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1850 and entered the Jesuit order. The order sent him to Europe to study in 1858 because his African ancestry had become an issue in the United States. He earned his doctorate from the University of Leuven in Belgium, the first American of African descent to earn a Ph.D. Healy was ordained to the priesthood September 3, 1864, the first Jesuit priest of African descent. Healy returned to the U. S. in 1866 and began teaching at Georgetown. He was named president of the institution July 31, 1874. He helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century. He modernized the curriculum and expanded and upgraded the schools of law and medicine. He left the college in 1882. Healy died January 10, 1910. The Georgetown Alumni Association established the Patrick Healy Award in 1969 to recognize people who have 'distinguished themselves by a lifetime of outstanding achievement and service to Georgetown, the community and his or her profession." Patrick Francis Healy High School in East Orange, New Jersey is named in his honor. "Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920" was published in 2003.

December 23, 1990 Wendell Oliver Scott, stock car racer and the first African American to obtain a racing license from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, died. Scott was born August 29, 1921 in Danville, Virginia. He learned auto mechanics from his father and later earned his reputation for speed driving as a taxi cab driver and bootlegger. He served in the United States Army in Europe from 1943 to 1945. Scott broke the color barrier in Southern stock car racing at the Danville Fairgrounds Speedway May 23, 1952. He earned his NASCAR racing license in 1953 and won his only race December 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Scott consistently finished in the top ten in the drivers' point standings between 1965 and 1969. He was forced to retire in 1973 due to injuries with one win and 147 top ten finishes in 495 career races. After retiring, he ran Scott's Garage until his death. The 1977 movie "Greased Lightning" was loosely based on his story and his biography, "Hard Driving: The American Odyssey of NASCAR's First Black Driver," was published in 2008.

December 23, 2007 Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, hall of fame jazz pianist and composer, died. Peterson was born August 15, 1925 in Montreal, Canada. He began playing the trumpet and piano at five and won the national music competition sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation at 14. He dropped out of school after that and became a professional pianist. Peterson released more than 200 recordings and won eight Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, over a career spanning more than 65 years. Peterson also composed many pieces, including "Hymn to Freedom" (1962) and "Canadian Suite" (1964). Peterson was called the "Maharaja of the Keyboard" by Duke Ellington and is generally considered to have been one of the greatest pianist of all time. He was regarded as a distinguished public figure in Canada and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972, the country's highest civilian order for talent and service. Peterson was also awarded honorary doctorate degrees by 13 Canadian universities and inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1978. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1984. The Province of Ontario announced a $4 million scholarship for the Oscar Peterson Chair for Jazz Performance at York University weeks after his death. His biography, "Oscar Peterson: The Will to Swing," was published in 1990 and his autobiography, "A Jazz Odyssey," was published in 2002.

December 23, 2013 Yusef Lateef, jazz multi-instumentalist, composer, educator and author, died. Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston October 9, 1920 in Chattanooga, Tennessee but raised in Detroit, Michigan. By the time he graduated from high school, Lateef was a proficient enough saxophonist that he launched his professional career and began touring with a number of bands. He began recording as a leader in 1957 with the release of "The Sounds of Yusef." As a leader, he released more than 35 albums, including "Eastern Sounds" (1961), "Yusef Lateef's Detroit" (1969), "In a Temple Garden" (1979), "10 Years Hence" (2008), and "Roots Run Deep" (2012). His 1987 album "Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony" won the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. Lateef earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 1969 and his Master of Music Education degree in 1970 from the Manhattan School of Music. He earned his Doctor of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1975. Lateef founded YAL Records in 1992 and was commissioned to compose "The African American Epic Suite," a four part work for orchestra and quartet based on themes of slavery and disfranchisement in the United States, in 1993. Lateef authored several books, including his autobiography, "The Gentle Giant," which was published in 2006. He was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010.



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Today in Black History, 12/22/2015 | Jefferson Franklin Long

December 22, 1870 Jefferson Franklin Long, the first African American from Georgia to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, was seated. Long was born enslaved March 3, 1836 near Knoxville, Georgia and was self-educated. He was freed after the Civil War and was a prominent member of the Republican Party, traveling throughout the South urging formerly enslaved men to register to vote, by 1867. Partially as a result of his efforts, 37 African Americans were elected to the 1867 Georgia Constitutional Convention and 32 to the state legislature. Long advocated for public education, higher wages, and better terms for sharecroppers. He also helped organize the Union Brotherhood Lodge, a Black mutual aid society in Macon, Georgia. Long was elected to fill a vacancy and served in Congress until March 3, 1871. Long became the first African American to speak on the floor of the United States House of Representatives February 1, 1871. He spoke against the Amnesty Bill which exempted former Confederate politicians from swearing allegiance to the Constitution. The bill passed despite his efforts. Long did not seek re-election but did serve as a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention. Long resumed business as a merchant tailor in Macon after serving in Congress and died there February 4, 1901.

December 22, 1873 Charles Lenox Remond, orator, abolitionist and military organizer, died. Remond was born February 1, 1810 in Salem, Massachusetts. He began his activism against slavery as an orator while in his twenties. The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society chose him as one of its agents in 1838 and he went to the 1840 World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England. Remond had a reputation as an eloquent lecturer and is reported to have been the first Black public speaker on abolition. Remond recruited Black soldiers in Massachusetts for the Union Army during the Civil War and after the war worked in the Boston Customs House and as a street lamp inspector.

December 22, 1883 Arthur Wergs Mitchell, the first African American elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat, was born near Lafayette, Alabama. Mitchell left home at 14 to attend Tuskegee Institute and briefly attended Columbia University to qualify for the bar. He taught at rural schools in Georgia and Alabama and founded the Armstrong Agricultural School in Alabama where he served as president for ten years. Mitchell was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1934 and served four terms. He introduced bills banning lynching and against discrimination during his tenure. He chose to not seek re-election in 1942. MItchell died May 9, 1968. His biography, "The New Deal's Black Congressman: A Life of Arthur Wergs Mitchell," was published in 1997.

December 22, 1884 Saint Elmo Brady, the first African American to earn a Ph. D. in chemistry in the United States and educator, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Brady earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Fisk University in 1908 and his Master of Science degree in 1914 and Ph. D. in 1916 from the University of Illinois. He was the first African American admitted to Phi Lambda Upsilon, the chemistry honor society, and one of the first African Americans inducted into Sigma Xi, the science honorary society. Brady taught chemistry at Tuskegee Institute from 1916 to 1920, at Howard University from 1920 to 1927, and at Fisk from 1927 to his retirement in 1952. After retiring, he established the chemistry department and taught at Tougaloo College. Brady died December 25, 1966.

December 22, 1887 John Wesley Cromwell became the first African American lawyer to argue a case before the Interstate Commerce Commission when he served as counsel for the plaintiff in William H. Heard v. Georgia Railroad Company. Cromwell was born enslaved September 5, 1846 in Portsmouth, Virginia. After his father gained the family's freedom, Cromwell graduated from the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney University) in 1864. He graduated from Howard University Law School in 1873 and was admitted to the District of Columbia bar the next year. He founded the weekly paper The People's Advocate in 1876. A gifted organizer, Cromwell helped organize the Virginia Educational and Historical Association and the National Colored Press Association. He was a founder of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association and was a founding member of the American Negro Academy, an organization created to stimulate and demonstrate intellectual capabilities among African Americans, in 1897. Cromwell published his most influential work, "The Negro in American History: Men and Women Eminent in the Evolution of the American of African Descent," in 1914 and it influenced Carter G. Woodson to found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History the following year. He also published "The First Negro Churches in the District of Columbia" in 1917. Cromwell died April 14, 1927.

December 22, 1898 Chancellor James Williams, professor, historian and author, was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina. Williams earned his bachelor's degree in education in 1930 and his Master of Arts degree in history in 1935 from Howard University and his Ph.D. in history and sociology in 1949 from American University. He returned to Howard in 1946 as a professor and remained there until retirement in 1966. Williams began his studies abroad in England in 1953 and did field research in African history in Ghana in 1956. He published "The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race Between 4500 B.C. and 2000 A.D." in 1971 and it has become a cornerstone of Afrocentrism. The second edition of the book was published in 1987 and the 21st Century Foundation honored him with the first Clarence L.Holte International Biennial Prize. Other books authored by Williams include "And If I Were White" (1946), "Problems in African History" (1964), and "The Second Agreement with Hell" (1979). Williams died December 7, 1992.

December 22, 1902 Barney Launcelot Ford, businessman and civic leader, died. Ford was born enslaved January 22, 1822 in Virginia. He escaped via the Underground Railroad in 1840 and went to Chicago, Illinois. While sailing to California in 1848, he landed in Nicaragua where he saw many business opportunities. He opened the United States Hotel and Restaurant in 1851 which was very successful and provided him $5,000 in savings. Ford returned to Denver, Colorado where he eventually owned two hotels, a restaurant, and a barbershop and was worth over $250,000 by the 1870s. Ford gave money, food, and jobs to newly freed African Americans and opened a school for Black children. He and his wife were the first African Americans to be invited to a Colorado Association of Pioneers dinner in 1882. Ford's portrait, in the form of a stained glass window, is in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol Building. The Barney Ford House Museum is located in Breckenridge, Colorado and the Barney L. Ford Building is in Denver. A new Denver elementary school was named in his honor in 1973. Biographies of Ford include "Adventures of Barney Ford, a Runaway Slave" (1969) and "Barney Ford: Black Baron" (1973).

December 22, 1905 James Amos Porter, artist and "father of African American art history," was born in Baltimore, Maryland. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in 1927, he accepted a position at the university as instructor of painting and drawing. He received the 1933 Schomburg Portrait Prize from the Harmon Foundation for his painting "Woman Holding a Jug" (1930). He earned his Master of Arts degree in art history from New York University in 1937 and published "Modern Negro Art" in 1943, the first comprehensive study in the United States of African American art. Porter taught at Howard for more than 40 years and was the director of The Art Gallery from 1953 to 1970. He was selected one of the best art teachers in the nation in 1965 and was presented the award by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. Porter died February 28, 1970. The James A. Porter Colloquium on African American Art is held annually at Howard.

December 22, 1910 Elder Roma Wilson, evangelist, harmonica player and singer, was born in Hickory Flat, Mississippi. Wilson taught himself to play the harmonica at 15 and was ordained a Pentecostal minister at 17. He left Mississippi in 1935 and eventually ended up in Detroit, Michigan where he played and preached on the streets. Wilson was recorded in 1948 and the recordings were sold without his knowledge. These recordings introduced his music to people in the United States and Europe. Wilson moved back to Mississippi in 1976 and only learned of his recordings in the 1980s. After being rediscovered, he recorded his only album, "This Train," in 1995. Wilson was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, the United States' highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, in 1993. He continues to preach and perform.

December 22, 1921 Pierre Caliste Landry, the first African American to serve as mayor of an American city, died. Landry was born enslaved April 19, 1841 in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. He was sold at public auction to a prominent Louisiana family in 1854 and was educated in their primary and technical schools. Landry was freed after the Civil War and moved with his family to Donaldsonville, Louisiana. There he founded two Black schools, built a prosperous business, and became an influential leader in the Black community. Landry was elected Mayor of Donaldsonville in 1868 and served a one-year term. He was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1872 and to the state senate in 1874 where he served until 1880. He authored the bill to create New Orleans University, the third Black private college in Louisiana. Landry was elected to the highest position in the Methodist Episcopal Church, Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District, in 1891. Landry later served as principal and dean of several high schools.

December 22, 1924 Arthur Allen Fletcher, the "father of affirmative action," was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Fletcher organized his first civil rights protest in high school when he refused to allow his picture and those of the other African American students to appear at the back of the school yearbook. Fletcher earned his bachelor's degree in political science and sociology from Washburn University after serving in World War II where he was wounded and earned a Purple Heart. He played professional football for a short time and was the first African American to play for the Baltimore Colts. He later earned his law degree and Ph. D. in education. Fletcher supervised the enforcement of equal opportunities for minorities in federally funded contracts in the administrations of Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. He was also an adviser to President George H. W. Bush. Fletcher became executive director of the United Negro College Fund in 1972 and helped coin the phrase "a mind is a terrible thing to waste." He later led a consultancy that trained companies to comply with governmental equal opportunity regulations. Fletcher died July 12, 2005.

December 22, 1934 Wallace Henry Thurman, author, died. Thurman was born August 16, 1902 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He wrote his first novel at ten. He attended the University of Utah and the University of Southern California but did not earn a degree. Thurman moved to Harlem, New York in 1925 and became editor of The Messenger the following year, a position he held for a year.Later, he became a reader for Macauley's Publishing Company, the first African American in such a position. Thurman wrote a play, "Harlem," which debuted on Broadway in 1929. His novel "The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life" was published the same year. He published "Infants of the Spring" and co-authored "The Interne" in 1932. "The Collected Writings of Wallace Thurman: A Harlem Renaissance Reader," which includes all of his essays, many letters, and three previously unpublished works, was published in 2003.

December 22, 1939 Jerry Pickney, hall of fame illustrator of children's books, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pickney began drawing at four and earned a scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum College of Art (now the University of the Arts). After graduating, he held a number of positions in the field of design and illustration. Eventually, he opened the Jerry Pickney Studio and began illustrating children's books in 1964. He most often works on books that celebrate multiculturalism and African American heritage. Books he has illustrated include "The Tales of Uncle Remus" (1987), "Black Cowboy, Wild Horses" (1998), "The Old African" (2005), "Puss in Boots" (2012), and "The Tortoise and The Hare" (2013). Pickney is a five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award and four-time winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Award. He won the Caldecott Medal in 2009 from the Association for Library Services to Children for "The Lion & the Mouse" which was deemed "the most distinguished American picture book for children published that year." Pickney has also designed twelve postage stamps for the United States Postal Service's Black Heritage series. Pickney has received honorary doctorate degrees from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2003, the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in 2010, and the Bank Street Graduate School of Education in 2012. He was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2011 and the American Academy of Arts and Science in 2012.

December 22, 1939 Ma Rainey, hall of fame vocalist and the "Mother of the Blues," died. Rainey was born Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett April 26, 1886 in Columbus, Georgia. She first appeared on stage at 14 and began performing with her husband as Rainey & Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues in 1904. She made her first recording in 1923 and recorded 100 songs between that year and 1928, including "Bo-Weevil Blues" (1923), "Moonshine Blues" (1923), "Black Bottom" (1927), and "Soon This Morning" (1927). She earned enough money that she was able to retire from performing in 1933 and run two theaters that she owned until her death. Rainey was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 1994. Her recording of "C. C. Rider" (1925) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance" and included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 2004. Rainey's biography, "Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey," was published in 1981. Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

December 22, 1960 Jean-Michael Basquiat, the first painter of African descent to become an international art star, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Basquiat was fluent in French and Spanish at eleven. He dropped out of high school and started as a graffiti artist. He had become part of the neo-expressionist movement by 1982 and was showing his work regularly. He appeared on the cover of The New York Times magazine in 1985 in a feature entitled "New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist." Examples of Basquiat's representation of his heritage in his works include "Irony of Negro Policeman" (1981) and "Untitled (History of the Black People)" (1983). Basquiat died August 12, 1988. Several major museum retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held since his death, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum. His works sell for millions of dollars. His painting "Dustheads" sold for $48.8 million in 2013. A film biography titled "Basquiat" was released in 1996 and a documentary film, "Jean-Michael Basquiat: The Radiant Child," was released in 2009.

December 22, 1964 Angela James, hall of fame hockey player and the first superstar of modern women's hockey, was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. James attended Seneca College where she won numerous titles in ice hockey and earned her degree in recreation facilities management. She played in the Central Ontario Women's Hockey League from the late 1970s through the 1980s and dominated her opponents. She was selected to Canada's team in 1990 for the inaugural women's world championships and led her team to the Gold medal. She played in three additional world championships, earning eight Most Valuable Player Awards. Seneca retired her jersey number 8 in 2001. Hockey Canada honored James with the Female Breakthrough Award in 2005 for making significant contributions to the promotion and/or development of female hockey in Canada. The Angela James Bowl was created in 2008 to be awarded to the Canadian Hockey League's top scorer. She was one of the first three women to be inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008 and one of the first two inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. The Angela James Arena in North York, Ontario is named in her honor. James' biography, "Angela James: The First Superstar of Women's Hockey," was published in 2012. She is currently responsible for the administration and coordination of sports and recreational leagues at Seneca.



​ Hall of fame hockey player and the first superstar of modern women's hockey

Hall of fame illustrator of children's books

The first African American elected to the United States Congress as a Democrat

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Today in Black History, 12/21/2015 | Inman Edward Page

December 21, 1935, Inman Edward Page, educator, died. Page was born enslaved December 29, 1853 in Warrenton, Virginia. His family escaped slavery to Washington, D. C. during the Civil War. Page attended Howard University for two years and then enrolled at Brown University. He was one of the first two Black students to graduate from the university in 1877 and was valedictorian of his class. Page became president of Lincoln Institute in 1888 and was selected the first president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) in 1898. Page increased enrollment from 40 to well over 600 and the faculty from 4 to 35 in his 17 year tenure. Page resigned in 1915 and later became president of Western College and Industrial Institute and Roger Williams University. He returned to Oklahoma City in 1920 and later became supervising principal of the city's segregated Black school system. Page was awarded an honorary master's degree by Brown in 1918 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Wilberforce University. The main library at Lincoln University and the Inman Page Black Alumni Association at Brown are named in his honor.

December 21, 1872 Robert Scott Duncanson, landscape painter, died. Duncanson was born in 1821 in Seneca County, New York and went to live with his father in Canada as a young boy. He returned to the United States in 1841 with a desire to be an artist and taught himself by painting portraits and copying prints.Duncanson traveled the world in pursuit of his art and moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1845. The Detroit Daily Advertiser praised Duncanson for his skill and color usage in 1846, adding "Mr. Duncanson deserves, and we trust will receive the patronage of all lovers of the fine arts." Prior to the Civil War, Duncanson exiled himself to Canada and the United Kingdom where his work was well received and the London Art Journal declared him a master of landscape painting. His paintings "Drunkard's Plight" (1845), "At the Foot of the Cross" (1846), and "Uncle Tom and Little Eva" (1853) are in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

December 21, 1890 Alexander Thomas Augusta, surgeon, professor of medicine and Civil War veteran, died. Augusta was born March 8, 1825 in Norfolk, Virginia. He attempted to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania but was not allowed due to his race. He therefore enrolled at Trinity Medical College of the University of Toronto and earned his Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1856. Augusta remained in Toronto and established his medical practice, supervised staff at Toronto General Hospital, directed an industrial school, and founded the Provincial Association for the Education and Elevation of the Colored People of Canada. Augusta returned to the United States in 1860 and received a major's commission as surgeon for African American troops in the Union Army in 1863, the first African American physician and the highest ranking African American in the army. Augusta accepted an assignment with the Freedman's Bureau, heading Lincoln Hospital, after the war. He also served on the staff of the Washington, D. C. Freedman's Hospital from 1868 to 1877. Augusta was interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

December 21, 1897 William Washington Browne, educator, minister and businessman, died. Browne was born enslaved October 20, 1849 in Habersham County, Georgia. He ran away at 15 and joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he attended school in Wisconsin and then returned to the South in 1869 to teach in Georgia and Alabama. After becoming a Methodist minister in 1876, he urged the formation of groups to pool money and buy land. He organized the True Reformers Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia in 1889, the first Black bank in the United States to receive a charter. It took in more than $1 million in deposits at its peak in 1907. Browne was one of only eight men, including Booker T. Washington, selected to represent African Americans at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. After his death, Browne's funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Richmond's Black community.

December 21, 1902 Peetie Wheatstraw, hall of fame blues singer and songwriter, was born William Bunch in Ripley, Tennessee or Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Wheatstraw moved to St. Louis, Missouri in the late 1920s and was one of the most popular singers in the area by the early 1930s. He began recording in 1930. He was one of the most recorded blues singers with 161 recorded songs from then until his death December 21, 1941. These include "Don't Feel Welcome Blues," "Strange Man Blues," "Four O'Clock in the Morning," and "Tennessee Peaches Blues." The complete recordings of Wheatstraw were issued on seven CDs in 1994. Many critics consider him "the spiritual ancestor of rap" because of his style of singing and hardened attitude and ego. Wheatstraw was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008.

December 21, 1911 Josh Gibson, hall of fame Negro Baseball League player, was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. Gibson was recruited by the Homestead Grays, the preeminent Negro Baseball League team, in 1930. The true statistical achievements of Negro Baseball League players may be impossible to know because complete statistics and game summaries were not kept but it is claimed that Gibson hit almost 800 home runs over his 17 year professional career. He also was a ten-time All-Star and won two Negro Baseball League championships. Gibson died January 20, 1947, three months before Jackie Robinson became the first Black player in modern major league history. Gibson was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and was ranked 18th on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 2000. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2000. Biographies of Gibson include "Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues" (1978) and "Josh Gibson: The Power and The Darkness" (2004).

December 21, 1921 Pickney Benton Stewart Pinchback, the first African American to become governor of a state in the United States, died. Pinchback was born May 10, 1837 in Macon, Georgia. He made his way to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1862 and raised several companies of the Corps d'Afrique for the Union Army during the Civil War and was one of the few officers of African ancestry. Pinchback resigned his commission because of racial prejudice against Black officers. He was elected to the Louisiana State Senate in 1868 and became the acting Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana in 1871. The incumbent governor was removed from office December 9, 1872 and Pinchback became governor and served until January 13, 1873. During that brief 35 day period, he received vicious hate mail from around the country as well as threats on his life. Pinchback was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1874 and the U. S. Senate in 1876. Pinchback also served on the Louisiana State Board of Education and was instrumental in establishing Southern University and served on the board of trustees. President Chester A. Arthur appointed him surveyor of customs in New Orleans in 1882. Pinchback later moved to Washington D. C. where he practiced law until his death. His biography, "Pickney Benton Stewart Pinchback," was published in 1973.

December 21, 1931 David Nathaniel Baker, Jr., hall of fame symphonic jazz composer, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Baker earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 1953 and Master of Music degree in 1954 from Indiana University. He was originally a trombonist but an injury to his jaw left him unable to play. This caused him to focus on composition. Baker was nominated for the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Composition for "Levels" and a 1979 Grammy Award. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1994 and was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a Jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000. Baker has written over 2,000 compositions. He has also served on the boards of the American Symphony Orchestra League, Arts Midwest, and is past chair of the Jazz Advisory Panel at the Kennedy Center. Baker received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wabash College in 1993 and honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Oberlin College in 2004 and the New England Conservatory of Music in 2006. He is currently the Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. "David Baker: A Legacy in Music" was published in 2011.

December 21, 1942 Carla Venita Thomas, the Queen of Memphis Soul, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Thomas began performing at 10 as a member of the Teen Town Singers. Her first record, "Cause I Love You" was a duet with her father, Rufus Thomas. Thomas recorded her most famous single, "Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)" which she wrote at 15, in 1960. Other recordings from Thomas include "I'll Bring it Home to You" (1962), "A Woman's Love" (1964), "Let Me Be Good to You" (1966), "Love Means" (1971), "Carla Thomas" (1994), and "Bohemian Cavern" (2007). Thomas became heavily involved in the "Artists in the Schools" program that provided Memphis schoolchildren with access to successful artists during the 1980s. She received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1993.

December 21, 1945 George Faison, dancer and choreographer, was born in Washington, D. C. Faison entered Howard University in 1964 to study dentistry but dropped out in 1966 to pursue a career in dance. He moved to New York City and joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1967 and remained there through 1969. He formed his own group in 1971, the George Faison Universal Dance Experience. He served as dancer and choreographer, creating original works such as "Suite Otis" (1971) set to the music of Otis Redding. He also created pieces with a historical and political bent such as "Poppy" (1971) which dealt with the problem of drug addiction. Faison made his choreographic debut on Broadway with "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope" in 1972. He choreographed "The Wiz" in 1974 and won the Tony Award for Best Choreographer, the first for an African American in that category, April 20, 1975. Faison has choreographed more than 30 other plays and musicals, including "Via Galactica" (1973), "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" (1976), "Porgy and Bess" (1983), which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Choreograher, and "Sing, Mahalia, Sing" (1985). He was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography for his work on the HBO television production "The Josephine Baker Story" (1991). Faison co-founded the Faison Firehouse Theater in 1997 and serves as artistic director.

December 21, 1958 Harry "The Black Panther" Wills, hall of fame boxer, died. Wills was born May 15, 1889 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He began his professional boxing career in 1911 and fought for over 20 years, often ranked as the number one challenger for the heavyweight boxing title, but was never given the opportunity to fight for the title due to his race. Wills spent six years trying to land a fight with Jack Dempsey, who was willing to fight him, but the Governor of the State of New York would not allow it fearing that race riots would follow the fight. Wills retired from boxing in 1932 with a record of 65 wins, 8 losses, and 2 draws. After retiring, he ran a successful real estate business until his death. Wills was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.

December 21, 1959 Florence Delorez "Flo-Jo' Griffith-Joyner, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Los Angeles, California. At the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, Griffith-Joyner won the Silver medal in the 200 meter race and at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games she won the Gold medal in the 100 and 200 meter races and in the 4 by 100 meter relay and the Silver medal in the 4 by 400 meter relay. Her world records in the 100 and 200 meter races still stand. She received the 1988 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. Griffith- Joyner retired from competitive sports shortly after the 1988 Olympic Games and was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1995. Griffith-Joyner died September 21, 1998. Florence Joyner Olympiad Park in Mission Viejo, California is named in her honor.

December 21, 1972 Horace Mann Boyd, historian, college administrator and social science researcher, died. Bond was born November 8, 1904 in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, from Lincoln University in 1923 and his Master of Arts degree in 1926 and Ph. D. in 1936 in education from the University of Chicago. His dissertation on Black education in Alabama won the Rosenberger Prize in 1936 and was published in 1939. Bond taught at Langston, Fisk, and Dillard Universities while completing his doctorate. He was appointed the first president of Fort Valley State College (now University) in 1939 and served until 1945. Bond was appointed the first African American president of Lincoln University in 1945, a position he held until 1957. He provided research that helped support the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Bond later became dean of the School of Education and director of the Bureau of Educational and Social Research at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). He authored several books, including "The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order" (1934) and "Education for Freedom: A History of Lincoln University" (1976). Bond's biography, "Black Scholar: Horace Mann Bond 1904-1972," was published in 1992.

December 21, 1992 Albert King, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. King was born Albert Nelson April 25, 1923 in Indianola, Mississippi but raised in Forrest City, Arkansas. He began his professional career as a musician with a group called In The Groove Boys and briefly played drums on several early recordings of the Jimmy Reed band. King moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1953 and recorded his first single. He released his first album, "The Big Blues," in 1962 and it contained "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong" which was a major hit. King moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1966 and signed with Stax Records and released "Born Under a Bad Sign" in 1967 which made him nationally known. Other albums by King include "Lovejoy" (1971), "New Orleans Heat" (1978), and "Red House" (1992). He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983 and received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1991. King influenced many other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. His album "Born Under a Bad Sign" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

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Today in Black History, 12/20/2015 | Ernest James Gaines

December 20, 2000 Ernest James Gaines was awarded the National Humanities Medal, for work that has "deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizen's engagement with the humanities, or helped to preserve and expand American's access to important resources in the humanities," by President William J. Clinton. Gaines was born January 15, 1933 in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. He wrote his first novel when he was 17 and sent it to a publisher who rejected it. He later rewrote it and it became his first published novel "Catherine Carmier" (1964). He published his first short story, "The Turtles," in 1956 in a magazine at San Francisco State University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in literature in 1957. His 1971 novel "The Autobiography of Jane Pittman" was adapted for a 1974 television movie of the same title that won eight Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Special-Comedy or Drama. His 1993 novel "A Lesson Before Dying" won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction and was adapted for a television movie of the same title that won the 1999 Emmy Award for Outstanding Made for Television Movie. Other books by Gaines include "A Gathering of Old Men" (1983) and "Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays" (2005). Gaines was presented the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award in 1993. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation established the Earnest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence in 2007 to honor his legacy. Gaines was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor the nation bestows on an individual artist, by President Barrack H. Obama July 10, 2013.

December 20, 1935 William Julius Wilson, sociologist, educator and author, was born in Derry, Pennsylvania. Wilson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wilberforce University in 1958, his Master of Arts degree from Bowling Green State University in 1961, and his Ph. D. from Washington State University in 1966. He taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1965 to 1972 and the University of Chicago from 1972 to 1996. He was appointed the Lucy Flower University Professor and director of the University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Urban Equality in 1990. Wilson joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1996 and is currently the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor. Wilson has authored a number of books, including "The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions" (1978), "The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy" (1987), and "More Than Just Race: Being Poor and Black in the Inner City" (2009). He is past president of the American Sociological Association and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Wilson has received many honors, including more than 40 honorary doctorate degrees, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur "Genius" Award in 1987, and the only non-economist to receive the Seidman Award in Political Economy. He received the National Medal of Science, the highest honor the United States bestows on scientist, engineers, and inventors, from President William J. Clinton December 8, 1998 and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Lifetime Achievement Award in Nonfiction in 2010.

December 20, 1942 Robert Lee "Bullet Bob" Hayes, hall of fame track and field athlete and football player, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. While a student at Florida A&M University, Hayes was the Amateur Athletic Union 100 yard dash champion from 1962 to 1964 and was the National Collegiate Athletic Association champion in the 200 meter race in 1964. At the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, he won Gold medals and set world records in the 100 meter race and the 4 by 100 meter relay. At that time, he was considered the world's fastest man. Hayes was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1964 National Football League Draft. Over his 11 season football career, he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and was instrumental in the Cowboys' 1972 Super Bowl victory. Hayes is the only man to win an Olympic Gold medal and a Super Bowl ring. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1972 and published his autobiography, "Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes," in 1992. Hayes died September 18, 2002. He was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

December 20, 1968 George Edward Chalmer Hayes, lawyer, died. Hayes was born July 1, 1894 in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1915 and his law degree from Howard University School of Law in 1918. He attained one of the highest academic averages on record at Howard. Hayes worked to desegregate the public schools in the capitol as a member of the District of Columbia Board of Education from 1945 to 1949. He was the lead attorney in the 1954 Supreme Court case, Bolling v. Sharpe, in which the court decided that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment implicitly forbade most racial discrimination by the federal government. President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Hayes to the District of Columbia Public Utilities Commission in 1955, the first African American to serve on the commission. The District of Columbia Bar Association named him to its Board of Directors in 1962, the first African American to hold office in that organization.

December 20, 1988 Max Robinson, broadcast journalist, died. Robinson was born May 1, 1939 in Richmond, Virginia. He attended several colleges and briefly served in the United States Air Force before receiving a medical discharge. Robinson began his television career in 1959 in Portsmouth, Virginia where he had to read the news while hidden behind a slide of the station logo to conceal his race. Robinson had the slide removed one night and was fired the next day. He joined the "Eyewitness News" team in Washington, D.C. in 1969, the first Black television anchor in D.C. Robinson was the Chicago, Illinois based co-anchor of "ABC World News" from 1978 to 1983. Robinson was a founder of the National Association of Black Journalist in 1975.

December 20, 1995 Madge Dorita Walters Sinclair, actress, died. Sinclair was born April 28, 1938 in Kingston, Jamaica. She was a teacher in Jamaica until 1968 when she moved to New York City to pursue an acting career. She appeared in the 1977 television mini-series "Roots," a role which earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Drama. She appeared in the series "Trapper John, M. D." from 1979 to 1986 and earned three Emmy nominations for her work on that show. She appeared in the 1988 film "Coming to America" and was a regular on the television series "Gabriel's Fire," which won her the 1991 Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series. A businesswoman also, Sinclair was an art dealer, chairwoman of clothing manufacturer Madge Sinclair, Inc., and the owner of an income tax service.

December 20, 2000 David C. Driskell was awarded the National Humanities Medal, for work that has "deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizen's engagement with the humanities, or helped to preserve and expand American's access to important resources in the humanities," by President William J. Clinton. Driskell was born June 7, 1931 in Eatonton, Georgia. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in art from Howard University in 1955 and his Master of Fine Arts degree from Catholic University in 1962. He served as visiting professor at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ife in Nigeria from 1969 to 1970. Driskell joined the faculty of the University of Maryland in 1977 and served as chair of the Department of Art from 1978 to 1983. He has served as cultural advisor and curator of the Camille and Bill Cosby Collection of Fine Art since 1977. Driskell has written more than 40 catalogues for exhibitions he has created. The David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora was founded at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2001. Driskell's work is in the collections of many major museums, including the National Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, and Yale University Art Gallery. His life and work is detailed in "David C. Driskell: Artist and Scholar" published in 2006.

December 20, 2000 Quincy Delight Jones was awarded the National Humanities Medal, for work that has "deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizen's engagement with the humanities, or helped to preserve and expand American's access to important resources in the humanities," by President William J. Clinton. Jones was born March 14, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. He won a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in 1951 but abandoned his studies when he received an offer to play in the band of Lionel Hampton. He composed the first of his 33 motion picture scores for the film "The Pawnbroker" in 1964. Jones' recordings also garnered acclaim, including "Walking In Space" (1969), "Smackwater Jack" (1971), "The Dude" (1981), and "Q's Juke Joint" (1995). He produced and conducted "We Are the World" in 1985 to raise money for the victims of Ethiopia's famine. Jones also produced "Off The Wall" (1979), "Thriller" (1982), and "Bad" (1987) for Michael Jackson. Jones was the first African American named musical director/conductor of the Academy Awards ceremony in 1971 and the first African American to win the academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1995. He has earned a record 79 Grammy Award nominations and 27 Grammy Awards, including the 1991 Grammy Legend Award. Jones was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor bestowed by the nation on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008. He is one of the founders of the Institute for Black American Music which is raising funds for a national library of African American art and music and is the founder of the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation which connects youth with technology, education, culture, and music. Harvard University endowed the Quincy Jones Professorship of Afro-American Music in 2000. Jones received Kennedy Center Honors in 2001, the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement in 2007 and the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Philanthropy in 2009. Jones received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, from President Barack H. Obama March 2, 2011. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, received the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People 2014 Spingarn Medal, and received an honorary doctorate degree from the Royal Academy of Music in 2015. "The Autobiography of Quincy Jones" was published in 2001.

December 20, 2000 Toni Morrison was awarded the National Humanities Medal, for work that has "deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizen's engagement with the humanities, or helped to preserve and expand American's access to important resources in the humanities," by President William J. Clinton. Morrison was born Chloe Ardella Wolford February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Howard University in 1953 and her Master of Arts degree in English from Cornell University in 1955. She became an editor at Random House in 1966 and played an important role in bringing African American literature into the mainstream. Morrison's first novel was "The Bluest Eyes" (1970) which was followed by "Sula" (1973), and "Song of Solomon" (1977), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her novel "Beloved" was published in 1987 and won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the American Book Award. The New York Times Book Review named it the best American novel published in the previous 25 years in 2006. The book was adapted into a film of the same title in 1998. Other novels by Morrison include "Jazz" (1992), "Love" (2003), "Home" (2012), and "God Help the Child" (2015). Morrison was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature and was cited, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, give life to an essential aspect of American reality." The National Endowment for the Humanities selected Morrison for the 1996 Jefferson Lecture, the nation's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. She received the 1996 National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for "enriching our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work." Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University from 1989 to her retirement in 2006. She won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for "Who's Got Game? The Ant or the Grasshopper? The Lion or the Mouse? Poppy or the Snake?." She was presented the Norman Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2009 and received honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from Rutgers University and the University of Geneva in 2011. Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack H. Obama May 29, 2012. She received the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Book Critics Circle in 2014. She is currently a member of the editorial board at The Nation magazine.

December 20, 2000 Bennett Lester "Bennie" Carter was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor the nation bestows on an individual artist, by President William J. Clinton. Carter was born August 8, 1907 in New York City. Largely self-taught, he was sitting in with some of New York's top bands by 15. He formed his first band in 1929 and led the McKinney's Cotton Pickers from 1931 to 1932. He was also noted for his arrangements during the 1930s, including "Keep a Song in Your Soul" (1930), "Lonesome Nights" (1933), and "Symphony in Riffs" (1933). Carter moved to Europe in 1935 and became staff arranger for the British Broadcasting Corporation dance orchestra. He returned to the United States in 1938 and began to arrange for feature films, beginning with "Stormy Weather" in 1943. Carter was one of the first African Americans to compose music for films. He won the 1963 Grammy Award for Best Background Arrangement for "Busted" by Ray Charles. Carter was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1977, was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986 and received Kennedy Center Honors in 1996. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo for "Prelude to a Kiss." He received honorary doctorate degrees from Princeton, Rutgers, and Harvard Universities and the New England Conservatory. Carter died July 12, 2003. His biography, "Benny Carter: A Life in Music," was published in 1982.

December 20, 2000 Maya Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor the nation bestows on an individual artist, by President William J. Clinton. Angelou was born Marguerite Ann Johnson April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a scholarship to train in African dance in 1952 and toured Europe with a production of the opera "Porgy and Bess" from 1954 to 1955. She recorded her first album, "Miss Calypso," and was featured in the movie "Calypso Heat Wave" in 1957. She became active in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s, serving as the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Angelou's first and best known book, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (1969), was nominated for a National Book Award and her 1971 volume of poetry, "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Diiie," was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at the 1993 inauguration of President William J. Clinton. Her recording of the poem won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word or Non-Traditional Album. She also won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for "Phenomenal Woman" in 1995 and "A Song Flung Up to Heaven" in 2002. Angelou received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1994 Spingarn Medal. Angelou was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1998 and was awarded the Lincoln Medal in 2008. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack H. Obama February 15, 2011 and received the Norman Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2013. Angelou was awarded over 30 honorary doctorate degrees and published seven autobiographies, the last one, "Mom & Me & Mom," in 2013. Angelou died May 28, 2014. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2015.

December 20, 2001 Leopold Sedar Senghor, poet and the first President of the Republic of Senegal, died. Senghor was born October 9, 1906 in Joal, Senegal. His father was a successful businessman which allowed Senghor to attend the best schools in Senegal and earn a scholarship to study in France where he graduated from the University of Paris. After graduation, he taught at the Universities of Tours and Paris. During this time, he and other African intellectuals conceived the idea of "negritude" in response to the racism in France. It was meant as a celebration of African culture and character. Senghor enlisted as a French army officer in 1939 and the following year was taken prisoner by the Germans and spent two years in different prison camps. After the war ended in 1945, Senghor took the position of dean of the linguistics department at the Ecole Natioanale de la France d'Outre-Mer, a position he held until 1960. The Republic of Senegal gained its independence from France June 20, 1960 and Senghor was elected the first president, a position he held until his resignation in 1980. Senghor published the first volume of a series of five titled "Liberte" which contained speeches and essays in 1964. The fifth volume was published in 1993. Other works by Senghor include "Songs for Naeett" (1949), "Ethiopiques" (1956), and "Nocturnes" (1961). He was elected a member of l'Academie francaise, the first African to sit at the Academie, in 1983. The airport in Dakar was renamed Aeroport International Leopold Senghor in 1996.

December 20, 2004 Frank "Son" Seals, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. Seals was born August 13, 1942 in Osceola, Arkansas. He began performing professionally at 13 and formed his own band, Son Seals and the Upsetters, at 19. Seals moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1971 and recorded his debut album, "The Son Seals Blues Band," in 1973. Other albums by Seals include "Midnight Sun" (1976), "Chicago Fire" (1980), and "Nothing But The Truth" (1994). He received the W. C. Handy Award for Best Blues Recording in 1985, 1987, and 2001. Seals was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2009.

December 20, 2010 Roderick L. Ireland was sworn in as the first African American Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Ireland was born December 3, 1944 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966 from Lincoln University, his Juris Doctorate degree in 1969 from Columbia Law School, his Master of Laws degree in 1975 from Harvard Law School, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Law, Policy, and Society in 1998 from Northeastern University. He served as the chief attorney, deputy director, and executive director of the Roxbury Defenders Committee from 1971 to 1974. Ireland served on the Boston Juvenile Court from 1977 to 1990 and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals from 1990 to 1997. He was appointed associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1997. Ireland has been an adjunct faculty member at the Northeastern University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice since 1978 and on the faculty of the Appellate Judges Seminar at New York University since 2001. He has received a number of honorary Doctor of Laws degrees.

December 20, 2012 Jimmy McCracklin, hall of fame songwriter, pianist and vocalist, died. McCracklin was born James David Walker August 13, 1921 in Helena, Arkansas but raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He joined the United States Navy in 1938 and served for three years. He moved to Richmond, California where he played in a local club. McCracklin recorded his debut single, "Miss Mattie Left Me," in 1945. He went on to record more than 20 albums, including "Just Got to Know" (1963), "Think" (1965), and "A Taste of the Blues" (1994). His 1957 single "The Walk," which he wrote, went to number seven on the Billboard Pop Chart. McCracklin claimed to have written almost a thousand songs and recorded hundreds of them. He received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1991 and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008.

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Today in Black History, 12/19/2015 | William Cooper Nell


December 19, 1864 William Cooper Nell became the first African American to work in the federal civil service when he became a postal clerk in Boston, Massachusetts. Nell was born December 16, 1816 in Boston. He studied law in the early 1830s but was never certified as a lawyer because he would not swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States which he believed advocated the enslavement of African Americans in the South. Nell was influential in organizing the Freedom Association and the Committee of Vigilance which were all-Black organizations that helped previously enslaved Black people that had fled to the North. Nell worked with Frederick Douglass on the abolitionist publication The North Star from 1848 to 1851 and was instrumental in the 1855 decision to allow African American students in Massachusetts to study alongside their White classmates. Nell was a prolific author and wrote two exhaustive studies of African Americans in war, "Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812" (1851) and "Colored Patriots of the American Revolution" (1855). Nell died May 25, 1874. "William Cooper Nell: Abolitionist, Historian and Integrationist; Selected Writings, 1832-1874" was published in 2002.

December 19, 1875 Carter Godwin Woodson, historian, author and journalist, was born in New Canton, Virginia. Woodson mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects through self-instruction by 17 and graduated from high school at 22. He then earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in 1903, his Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in 1908, and his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1912. He co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and published his first book, "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861" in 1915. Other books that he authored include "The History of the Negro Church" (1922) and "The Mis-Education of the Negro" (1933). Woodson began publishing "Journal of Negro History," which was renamed "Journal of African American History" in 2002, in 1916 and founded the Associated Publishers, the oldest African American publishing company in the United States, in 1920. Woodson single-handedly pioneered the celebration of Negro History Week, which we now refer to as Black History Month, in 1926 and was awarded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1926 Spingarn Medal. Woodson died April 3, 1950. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1984 and his Washington D.C. home was designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site February 27, 2006. Also, many schools around the country are named in his honor. Biographies of Woodson include "Carter G. Woodson: The Father of Black History" (1991) and "Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History" (1993). His name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

December 19, 1881 Joseph Nathan "King" Oliver, jazz cornetist, bandleader and composer, was born in Aben, Louisiana but raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Oliver played cornet in brass and dance bands in New Orleans from 1908 to 1917. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1918 and formed King Oliver and his Creole Band. One of the members of his band was Louis Armstrong who wrote in his autobiography "if it had not been for Joe Oliver, jazz would not be what it is today." Oliver led various bands until 1937 when he was forced to quit playing due to medical problems. During that time, he pioneered the use of mutes on his instruments. He also wrote many tunes still played today, including "Sweet Like This," "Canal Street Blues," and "Doctor Jazz." Oliver lost his life savings when his Chicago bank failed during the Great Depression and died destitute April 10, 1938. His recording "Chimes Blues" (1923) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance and "Dippermouth Blues" (1923), which he wrote, was inducted in 2010. Oliver was an inaugural inductee into the Gennett Record Walk of Fame in 2007.

December 19, 1891 Charles Randolph Uncles became the first Black seminarian to be educated and ordained a priest in the United States. The date and place of Uncle's birth is unknown but it is known that he desired to be a priest at an early age. He attended Baltimore Normal School for Teachers and taught in the Baltimore Public School System. He graduated from St. Hyacinthe College in Quebec, Canada with the highest grades in his class. Uncles taught at Epiphany College in Baltimore from 1891 to 1925 and was instrumental in forming the Society of St. Joseph the Sacred Heart in 1893. Uncles died July 21, 1933. The Knights of Peter Claver, Father Charles Council #4 and the Charles R. Uncles Senior Plaza in Baltimore are named in his honor.

December 19, 1918 Henry Roeland "Professor Longhair" Byrd, hall of fame blues pianist and singer, was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana but raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Byrd learned to play the piano as a child. He started his professional music career in 1948 after a stint in the United States military during World War II. He recorded his only national commercial hit, "Bald Head," under the name Roy Byrd and His Blues Jumpers in 1950. Although locally popular, Byrd was never commercially successful. He abandoned the music business to work odd jobs for a living in 1964. He began a comeback in 1971 and recorded several albums, including "Rock 'N' Roll Gumbo" (1974), "Live on the Queen Mary" (1978), and "Crawfish Fiesta" (1980). Byrd died January 30, 1980. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. An album of his early recordings, "House Party New Orleans Style," won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. A documentary, "Professor Longhair: Making a Gumbo," was produced in 2015.

December 19, 1920 Robert Blackburn, artist, printmaker and educator, was born in Summit, New Jersey. Blackburn was mentored by several Harlem Renaissance artists as a teenager, including Charles "Spanky" Alston and Augusta Savage. He studied lithography, etching, woodblock, and silk-screening at the Workers Progress Administration Harlem Community Art Center. He established the Printmaking Workshop in 1948 and it became influential in the international printmaking community, producing such works as "Impressions Our World" (1974), a portfolio of prints by African American artists. Blackburn taught at Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, and Rutgers University. His work is included in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Tel Aviv Museum. He received the John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation "Genius" Award in 1992 and the Lifetime Achievement Awards from the College Art Association and the National Fine Print Association in 2000. Blackburn died April 21, 2003.

December 19, 1929 Blind Lemon Jefferson, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. Jefferson was born Lemon Henry Jefferson September 24, 1893 near Coutchman, Texas. He was born blind. He started playing the guitar in his early teens and became a street musician. He was traveling around Texas and playing with other blues musicians, including Leadbelly and T-Bone Walker, by 1915. Jefferson was taken to Chicago, Illinois in 1926 to record his music. Between 1926 and 1929, he recorded several hits, including "Got the Blues," "Long Lonesome Blues," and "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." After his death, Jefferson was buried in an unmarked grave. A Texas Historical Marker was placed at the gravesite in 1967 and the name of the cemetery was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery in 2007. Jefferson is often referred to as Father of Texas Blues. He was an inaugural inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. His recording "Matchbox Blues" (1927) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance" and listed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. "Blind Lemon Jefferson: His Life, His Death, and His Legacy" was published in 2002.

December 19, 1933 Cicely Tyson, stage, film and television actress, was born in Harlem, New York. Tyson was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine and became a popular fashion model. Her first film role was in "Carib Gold" (1957) and other films include "A Man Called Adam" (1966), "The Comedians" (1967), "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" (2005), "The Help" (2011), and "Alex Cross" (2012). Tyson appeared in the original cast of "The Blacks," the longest running Off-Broadway non-musical of the decade, in 1961. She was nominated for the 1972 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in "Sounder" and won the 1974 Emmy Awards for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and Actress of the Year – Special for "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman." Other television appearances include "Roots" (1977), "King" (1978), "The Marva Collins Story" (1981), and "The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All" (1994), for which she won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, New Jersey is named in her honor and she plays an active role in supporting the school. Tyson received an honorary doctorate degree from Morehouse College in 2009 and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 2010 Spingarn Medal. Tyson won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in "A Trip to Bountiful" and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for the television movie of the same title. She received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Columbia University in 2014. She is currently on Broadway in "The Gin Game."

December 19, 1951 John Preston "Pete" Hill, hall of fame Negro league baseball player and manager, died. Hill was born October 12, 1882 in Culpeper, Virginia. He played in the Negro leagues from 1899 to 1925 and was considered the most important member of three of the most talented teams to ever play. He was also considered the most consistent hitter of his time, retiring with a career batting average of .326. Hill was player/manager for the Detroit Stars from 1919 to 1921. His final position in professional baseball was as field manager for the Baltimore Black Sox. Hill moved to Buffalo, New York in 1930 to work as a railroad porter. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

December 19, 1961 Reginald Howard White, hall of fame football player, was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. White played for the University of Tennessee from 1980 to 1983 and was an All-American in 1983. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in human services, he signed with the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League and after that league folded in 1985 signed with the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. White was a 12-time All-Pro selection and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and 1998 over the next 15 seasons. White was known as "the Minister of Defense" because of his strong Christian beliefs and his play on the field. After retiring from football, he served as an associate minister at a church in Knoxville, Tennessee. White died December 26, 2004. During the 2005 football season the University of Tennessee, Philadelphia Eagles, and Green Bay Packers all retired White's uniform number. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Reggie White Boulevard in Chattanooga and Reggie White Way in Green Bay, Wisconsin are named in his honor.

December 19, 1964 Randall McDaniel, hall of fame football player, was born in Phoenix, Arizona. McDaniel was a four-year starter for Arizona State University and was an All-American in 1986 and 1987. After graduating from college, he was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1988 National Football League Draft and over his 14 season professional career was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection. McDaniel was named the 1996 NFL True Value Man of the Year for his charity work. McDaniel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Today, he is a paraprofessional at the Westonka School District in Mound, Minnesota. The Randall McDaniel Sports Complex in Avondale, Arizona was named in his honor in 2010.

December 19, 1967 Charles Austin, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Van Vleck, Texas. Austin earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from Southwest Texas University (now Texas State University) in 1991. He won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Outdoor Championship in the high jump in 1990. Austin participated in the 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, and 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games, winning the Gold medal and setting an Olympic record which still stands at the 1996 games. He also holds the American record for the high jump. Austin was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2012. He currently owns a sports performance and personal training company. Austin published "Head Games: Life's Greatest Challenge" in 2007.

December 19, 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration, to the family of Matthew Leonard for his actions during the Vietnam War. Leonard was born November 26, 1929 in Eutaw, Alabama. He served in the United States Army during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. On February 28, 1967, Leonard was serving as a platoon sergeant with Company B, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division near Suoi Da, South Vietnam when his platoon came under attack. His citation partially reads, "Although the platoon leader and several other key leaders were among the first wounded, P/Sgt. Leonard quickly rallied his men to throw back the initial enemy assaults. During the short pause that followed, he organized a defensive perimeter, redistributed ammunition, and inspired his comrades through his forceful leadership and words of encouragement. Noticing a wounded companion outside of the perimeter, he dragged the man to safety but was struck by a sniper's bullet which shattered his left hand. Refusing medical attention and continuously exposing himself to the increasing fire as the enemy again assaulted the perimeter, P/Sgt. Leonard moved from position to position to direct the fire of his men against the well camouflaged foe. Under the cover of the main attack, the enemy moved a machine gun into a location where it could sweep the entire perimeter………………..P/Sgt. Leonard rose to his feet, charged the enemy gun, and destroyed the hostile crew despite being hit several times by enemy fire. He moved to a tree, propped himself against it, and continued to engage the enemy until he succumbed to his wounds. His fighting spirit, heroic leadership, and valiant acts inspired the remaining members of his platoon to hold back the enemy until assistance arrived."

December 19, 1872 Warren Carlos Sapp, hall of fame football player, was born in Orlando, Florida but raised in Plymouth, Florida. Sapp played college football at the University of Miami where he won the 1994 Lombardi Award as the best college lineman or linebacker and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the best college defensive player. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1995 National Football League Draft and over his 13 season professional career was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Sapp retired from football in 2008. He was selected for the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1990s and the 2000s. Sapp was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Buccaneers retired his number 99 jersey that same year. He is currently an analyst with NFL Network. He also is involved in raising global awareness of the importance of being tested and treated for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

December 19, 1980 Charles "Tarzan" Cooper, hall of fame basketball player, died. Cooper was born August 30, 1907 in Newark, Delaware but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started playing basketball professionally in 1925 with the Philadelphia Panthers and Philadelphia Giants and joined the New York Rens in 1929. He led them on an 88 game winning streak in 1933 and the World Professional Championship in 1939. Cooper joined the Washington Bears in 1941 and led them to the 1943 World Professional Championship. He was considered the greatest center of his time. Cooper retired in 1944 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977, the first African American inducted as an individual.

December 19, 1997 Jimmy Rogers, hall of fame blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, died. Rogers was born James A. Lane June 3, 1924 in Ruleville, Mississippi. He learned to play the harmonica as a child. He was playing the guitar professionally in East St. Louis, Illinois by the time he was a teenager. Rogers played with Muddy Waters' band from 1947 to 1954 and they shaped the sound of the Chicago Blues style. Rogers had several successful solo record releases in the mid-1950s, including "Walking By Myself" (1956) and he continued touring and recording until his death. Rogers was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1995.

December 19, 2000 Milton John Hinton, hall of fame jazz bass player, died. Hinton was born June 23, 1910 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He learned to play the bass horn, tuba, cello, and the double bass while in high school. He worked as a freelance musician in Chicago, Illinois in the late 1920s and early 1930s, playing with famous jazz musicians such as Jabbo Smith and Art Tatum. He joined the Cab Calloway band in 1936 and played with them until 1951. Hinton later became a television staff musician, working regularly on shows with Jackie Gleason and Dick Cavett. Hinton's biography, "Bass Line," was published in 1988 and he was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the United States bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993. Hinton is recognized as the most recorded jazz musician of all time, having appeared on 1,174 recordings. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2001. National Public Radio produced a documentary, "Milt Hinton: The Ultimate Timekeeper," on his life and music in 2008.

December 19, 2000 Roebuck "Pops" Staples, hall of fame gospel and R&B musician, died. Staples was born December 28, 1914 on a cotton plantation near Winona, Mississippi. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1935 and sang with the Trumpet Jubilees. He formed The Staple Singers with his children as a gospel group in 1948 and they started recording in the early 1950s with songs such as "This May Be the Last Time" and "Uncloudy Day." They started recording protest, inspirational, and contemporary music in the 1960s and had a number of hits, including "Respect Yourself" (1971), "I'll Take You There" (1972), "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)" (1973), and "Let's Do it Again" (1975). Three of their singles have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as recordings of "lasting qualitative or historical significance," "I'll Take You There" and "Uncloudy Day" (1956) in 1999 and "Respect Yourself" in 2002. Staples began a solo career after the group disbanded in the 1980s and won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for "Father, Father." The Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.


 Stage, film and television actress

Hall of fame football player

The first Black seminarian to be educated and ordained a priest in the United States

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Today in Black History, 12/18/2015 | Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr.

December 18, 1912 Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airman, was born in Washington, D. C. After attending the University of Chicago, Davis entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1932. Despite shunning by his classmates, never having a roommate, and being forced to eat alone, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1936, the fourth Black graduate from the academy. He was assigned to the first training class at Tuskegee Army Air Field in 1941 and became the first officer to earn his wings there in 1942. During World War II, the airmen commanded by Davis compiled an outstanding record in combat, flying more than 15,000 sorties, shooting down 111 enemy planes, and destroying or damaging 273 planes on the ground. Davis served at the Pentagon and in overseas posts for the next 20 years before retiring from active military service in 1970 as a lieutenant general. Davis published his autobiography, "Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.: American," in 1991 and was advanced to the rank of General, United States Air Force in 1998, with President William J. Clinton pinning on his four-star insignia. Davis died July 4, 2002.

December 18, 1852 George Henry White, the last African American Congressman of the Reconstruction era, was born in Rosindale, North Carolina. White graduated from Howard University in 1877 and studied law privately before he was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1879. He entered politics in 1880 when he was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives. He was elected to the North Carolina Senate in 1884 and Solicitor and Prosecuting Attorney in 1886. White was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1896 and re-elected in 1898. White did not run for a third term because of changes in the voting laws and the intimidation of Black voters. In his farewell speech he said, "This is perhaps the Negroes' temporary farewell to the American Congress but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again." His speech was referenced by President Barack H. Obama in his remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Awards Dinner September 26, 2009. White was an officer in the National Afro-American Council, a nationwide civil rights organization created in 1898. He moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1906 where he practiced law, operated a commercial savings bank, and founded the town of Whitesboro, New Jersey as a real estate development. White died December 28, 1918. His biography, "George Henry White: An Even Chance in the Race of Life," was published in 2000.

December 18, 1897 Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Jr., hall of fame jazz pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia. Henderson earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry and mathematics from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1920. He moved to New York City to attend Columbia University for a master's degree in chemistry. However, he found his job prospects in chemistry to be limited due to his race and turned to music for a living. He formed his own band in 1922 and it quickly became known as the best Black band in New York. Henderson recorded extensively in the 1920s and 1930s, including "After the Storm" (1924), "Alabamy Bound" (1925), "Chinatown, My Chinatown" (1930), and "Down South Camp Meetin" (1934). He started arranging around 1931 and his arrangements became influential, particularly those for the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Henderson died December 28, 1952. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1973. His biography, "The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz," was published in 2005.

December 18, 1907 Sherman Leander Maxwell, sportscaster and chronicler of Negro league baseball, was born in Newark, New Jersey. Maxwell began his broadcasting career in 1929 doing a five-minute sports report on a radio station in Newark. It is believed by many historians that he was the first African American sportscaster. Maxwell also hosted a sports show called "Runs, Hits and Errors" and was the public address announcer for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Baseball League. Maxwell continued on radio and announcing games until his retirement in 1967. He also authored a book of interviews, "Thrills and Spills in Sports," in 1940. Maxwell was known as someone who preserved records and scores of Negro league baseball that would have been lost without him. Maxwell died July 16, 2008.

December 18, 1916 William Delouis Watson, the first African American to win the United States decathlon championship, was born in Boley, Oklahoma but raised in Saginaw, Michigan. Watson enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1935 and dominated his events from 1937 to 1939, winning Big Ten championships in the long jump, shot put, and discus all three years. He also set several Michigan and Big Ten Conference records. Watson was so dominate in so many events that he became known as "the University of Michigan's one man track team." Watson was elected captain of the track team in his senior year, the first African American captain of any sports team in U. of M. history. He was the first African American to win the U. S. decathlon championship in 1940 and repeated as champion in 1943. Watson joined the Detroit Police Department in 1941 and served until his retirement in 1966. Watson died March 3, 1973. He was posthumously inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1982.

December 18, 1917 Raiford Chatman "Ossie" Davis, actor, director, playwright and social activist, was born in Cogdell, Georgia. Davis began his acting career with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem, New York in 1939 and made his film debut in "No Way Out" in 1950. He appeared in almost 50 movies over the next 55 years, including Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" (1989), "Jungle Fever" (1991), "Malcolm X" (1992), and "She Hate Me" (2004). His last role was in the Showtime Television drama series "The L Word." He also directed five films, including "Cotton Comes to Harlem" (1970) and "Gordon's War" (1973). He and his wife, Ruby Dee, were deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement and were instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Davis delivered the eulogy at the 1965 funeral of Malcolm X and a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King at the 1968 memorial in New York City. Davis and Dee were presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President William J. Clinton October 5, 1995. They received Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. Davis and Dee published their memoir, "With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together," in 1998. Davis died February 4, 2005. His name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

December 18, 1933 Lonnie Brooks, hall of fame blues singer and guitarist, was born Lee Baker, Jr. in Dubuisson, Louisiana. Brooks moved to Port Arthur, Texas and joined Clifton Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana band. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1960 and adopted his stage name. Brooks recorded his debut album, "Broke An' Hungry," in 1969. Subsequent albums include "Bayou Lightning" (1979), "The Crawl" (1984), "Wound Up Tight" (1986), and "Roadhouse Rules" (1996). Brooks has toured throughout the United States and Europe and has appeared on German and British television. He co-authored "Blues for Dummies" in 1998. Brooks was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010.

December 18, 1942 Carlotta Walls LaNier, the first African American female to graduate from Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, was born in Little Rock. As one of the Little Rock Nine, she helped to desegregate Central High School in 1957. LaNier graduated from Central in 1960. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) in 1968. She has worked as a professional real estate broker, including founding her own firm in 1977. LaNier, along with the other members of the Little Rock Nine and Daisy Bates, was awarded the 1958 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal and, again with the other members of the group, received the Congressional Gold Medal from President William J. Clinton in 1999. LaNier was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2015. She is currently president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, a scholarship organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to education for African Americans. She published her memoir, "A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School," in 2009.

December 18, 1946 Stephen Bantu Biko, anti-apartheid activist, was born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Biko helped found the South African Students' Organization in 1968, which evolved into the Black Consciousness Movement, and was elected its first president. He was banned by the government in 1973 which meant that he could not give speeches in public and was restricted to certain areas of the country. Despite these restrictions, he and the BCM played a significant role in organizing the protests which culminated in the Soweto Uprising June 16, 1976. On August 21, 1977, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act of 1967 and suffered a major head injury while being interrogated by the police. As a result, Biko died September 12, 1977 at the Pretoria prison. Several universities in the United Kingdom and the main student union buildings at the University of Cape Town are named in his honor and each year a commemorative Steve Biko lecture is delivered on the anniversary of his death. Also, the Durbin University of Technology has named its largest campus after him and a bronze bust of him sits in Freedom Square on the campus. The 1987 film "Cry Freedom" was a biographical drama based on the life of Biko. A number of books have been published about Biko, including "Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa" (1978) and "Biko" (1978).

December 18, 1992 Clara McBride Hale, humanitarian known as Mother Hale, died. Hale was born April 1, 1905 in New York City. She struggled to support her family after the death of her husband during the Great Depression, using her home as a daycare center. Hale's profession became her life calling over the years. She became a foster parent and became known as a mother to those who did not have one. Hale began to take in children who were born addicted to their mother's drug habits during pregnancy in 1969 and attained her child care license and officially opened Hale House in 1975. Mother Hale helped over 1,000 drug addicted babies, children born with HIV, and children whose parents had died of AIDS. Hale was recognized by President Ronald W. Reagan in his 1985 State of the Union Address. Her biography, "Clara Hale: A Mother to Those Who Needed One," was published in 1993.



Humanitarian

The first African American female to graduate from Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock

 Hall of fame jazz pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer

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Today in Black History, 12/17/2015 | Charles Vernon Bush

December 17, 1939 Charles Vernon Bush, the first African American to graduate from the United States Air Force Academy, was born in Washington, D. C. Bush became the first African American to serve as a page of the U. S. Supreme Court in 1954. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the USAFA in 1963 and his Master of Arts degree in international relations from Georgetown University in 1964. Following his commissioning in 1963, Bush served as an intelligence officer, including a year in Vietnam where he was responsible for the operations of six intelligence teams. Bush resigned from the air force in 1970 and earned his Master of Business Administration degree in finance from Harvard University in 1972. He then served as an executive officer for several corporations and directed a number of entrepreneurial efforts. He also served on the board of Mutual Life Insurance Company. Bush died November 5, 2012.

December 17, 1663 Nzinga Mbande, queen of the Ndongo and Maamba Kingdoms in southwestern Africa, died. Nzinga was born in 1583 in what is now Angola in southwestern Africa. She assumed the title of Queen of Ndongo after the death of her brother in 1623. She led her troops in battle against the Portuguese colonizers from 1624 to 1657. After signing a peace treaty with Portugal, Nzinga devoted her efforts to resettling formerly enslaved Africans. After her death, the Portuguese accelerated their occupation of southwest Africa and significantly expanded the slave trade. A major street in Luanda, Angola is named in her honor and a statue of her sits on an impressive square. A biography, "Nzinga: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola, Africa, 1595," was published in 2000 and a play, "Nzinga, the Warrior Queen," was produced in 2006. Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

December 17, 1879 Maria W. Stewart, orator, abolitionist and feminist, died. Stewart was born June 20, 1803 and orphaned at five. She was deprived of an education until she was 20 when she began to attend Sabbath School. Stewart published pamphlets entitled "Religion and the pure principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on which We Build" in 1831 and "The Meditation from the pen of Mrs. Maria Stewart" in 1832. She was the first Black woman to lecture on women's rights, particularly the rights of Black women, religion, and social justice. Four of her speeches were published in the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator. Stewart moved to Washington, D. C. during the Civil War and established a school for children of families that had escaped slavery and later became matron of Freedman's Hospital. Stewart is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on her birthday. Her biography, "Maria W. Stewart, America's First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches," was published in 1987.

December 17, 1905 Nellie Stone Johnson, union organizer and civil rights activist, was born in Dakota County, Minnesota. Johnson joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as a teenager and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1922 where she worked as an elevator operator. She joined the Hotel and Restaurant Workers union in 1936 and later became their first female vice president. Johnson led the drive to create the Minneapolis Fair Employment Practices department, the first of its kind in the nation, in the 1940s and later led the effort to create a statewide version, the Employment Practices Act of 1955. Johnson became the first Black person elected to a citywide office when she was elected to the Minneapolis Library Board in 1945. She opened Nellie's Alterations, a sewing and alterations business that she operated for 30 years, in 1963. She served for eight years on the Minnesota State University Board and two terms on the Democratic National Committee in the 1980s. The Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Program was established in 1989 to offer scholarships to minority students from union families. Johnson received an honorary doctorate degree from St. Cloud State University in 1995 and published her autobiography, "Nellie Stone Johnson: The Life of an Activist," in 2000. Johnson died April 2, 2002. Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary School in Minneapolis is named in her honor.

December 17, 1913 James P. Thomas, businessman, died. Thomas was born enslaved in 1827 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was emancipated in 1851 but Tennessee law required that freed men leave the state. Thomas petitioned to stay and his petition was granted, making him the only freed Black man in Nashville. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1857 and began to invest in real estate and railroad and insurance company stocks. Thomas was one of the wealthiest men in Missouri, White or Black by 1870. He controlled an estate worth an estimated $250,000 at its height. His autobiography "From Tennessee Slave to St. Louis Entrepreneur: The Autobiography of James Thomas" was published in 1904.

December 17, 1919 Vernon Joseph Baker, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Baker enlisted in the United States Army in 1941. After completing Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1943. Baker was sent to Italy with the all-Black 92nd Infantry Division in 1944. On April 5, 1945, he participated in an attack on the German stronghold of Castle Aghinolfi. During the assault, he led his heavy weapons platoon through German defenses to within sight of the castle, personally destroying three machine gun nests, two observation posts, two bunkers, and a network of German telephone lines. It was for these actions that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, America's second highest military decoration. Baker retired from the military in 1968 as a first lieutenant. A study commissioned by the U. S. Army in 1993 described systematic racial discrimination in the criteria for awarding medals during World War II. No Congressional Medals of Honor had been awarded to Black soldiers who served in the war. The study recommended that seven Black Distinguished Service Cross recipients have their awards upgraded to the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration. President William J. Clinton presented the medals January 13, 1997. Baker was the only recipient still living. Baker died July 13, 2010.

December 17, 1919 Es'kia Mphahlele, author, educator and activist, was born in Pretoria, South Africa. Mphahlele earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945 and Master of Arts degrees in 1952 from the University of South Africa. He taught high school from 1945 to 1952 and published his first book of short stories, "Man Must Live," in 1947. Banned from teaching by the apartheid government after publicly agitating against the Bantu Education Act, he left South Africa in 1957 and spent the next twenty years in exile. During that time, he earned his Ph. D. from the University of Denver in 1968 and taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Mphahlele returned to South Africa in 1977 and joined the faculty of the University of Witwatersrand. He authored a number of other books, including "The African Image" (1962), "The Wanderers" (1969), and "Father Come Home" (1984). He also authored two autobiographies, "Down Second Avenue" (1959) and "Afrika My Music: An Autobiography 1957-1983" (1984). Mphahlele died October 27, 2008. The Es'kia Institute was founded in 2002 in Rivonia, South Africa "nurture, support and develop community initiatives in Arts, Culture, Education and Literature in an effort to advance and preserve Afrikan heritage."

December 17, 1927 Hubert Henry Harrison, writer, orator and political activist, died. Harrison was born April 27, 1883 in St. Croix, Danish West Indies (now U. S. Virgin Islands). He moved to New York City in 1900 and started writing letters to the editor of the New York Times on topics such as lynching, Charles Darwin, and literary criticism. He also began lecturing on a wide variety of topics and his outdoor speeches were instrumental in developing the Harlem tradition of militant street corner oratory. He began working for the Socialist Party of America in 1911 and founded the Colored Socialist Club in 1912 and became America's leading Black socialist. Harrison founded the New Negro Movement in 1916 as a race conscious, internationalist, radical movement for equality, justice, opportunity, and economic power. His movement became the basis for Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association. Harrison also founded the Liberty League as a radical alternative to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Harrison became the editor of the Negro World, the newspaper of the UNIA, in 1920 and soon developed it into the leading race conscious, radical, and literary publication of the day. His book and theater reviews and other writings appeared in many of the leading publications during the 1920s. Harrison founded the International Colored Unity League in 1924 which sought political rights, economic power, and social justice and urged self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and cooperative efforts. They also called for a Negro state in the United States. Harrison wrote "The Negro and the Nation" (1917) and "When Africa Awakes" (1920). A sampling of his varied work and poetry is included in "A Hubert Harrison Reader" (2001). His biography, "The Voice of Harlem Radicalism," was published in 2008.

December 17, 1939 Edward James "Eddie" Kendricks, member of the hall of fame The Temptations and songwriter, was born in Union Springs, Alabama. Kendricks and three friends formed a group called The Cavaliers in 1955. They moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1957 and changed their name to The Primes. Kendricks joined The Elgins in 1961 and they signed with Motown Records as The Temptations. The Temptations quickly became the most successful male vocal group of the 1960s with Kendricks singing lead on "Dream Come True" (1962), their first single on the charts, "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (1964), their first top 20 hit, "The Girls Alright With Me" (1964), which Kendricks co-wrote, and "Just My Imagination" (1971). Kendricks quit The Temptations in 1971 and embarked on a solo career. He scored a number one hit with "Keep on Truckin" in 1973. Other hits include "Boogie Down" (1974) and "He's a Friend" (1976). Kendricks and the original Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Kendricks died October 5, 1992. Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park in Birmingham, Alabama was dedicated in 1999.

December 17, 1954 Kenneth Carleton Frazier, the first African American to lead a major United States pharmaceutical company, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Frazier earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Pennsylvania State University in 1975 and his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1978. He was in private practice for 16 years prior to joining Merck & Co. in 1992. He took four summer sabbaticals during that time to teach trial advocacy in South Africa. Frazier was appointed senior vice president and general counsel of Merck in 1999 and served as executive vice president and president of the global human health unit from 2007 to 2010. Frazier was appointed president of the company in 2010 and Chief Executive Officer December 1, 2011. He serves on the boards of Penn State and Exxon Mobil Corporation and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

December 17, 1956 The United States Supreme Court in Browder v. Gayle upheld the ruling of a lower court that "the enforced segregation of Black and White passengers on motor buses operated in the City of Montgomery, Alabama violates the Constitution and laws of the United States" because the conditions deprived people of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Aurelia Browder, Claudette Colvin, and Susie McDonald, all women who had been discriminated against by drivers enforcing segregation policy in the Montgomery bus system.

December 17, 1961 Marion Perkins, self-taught sculptor, died. Perkins was born in January, 1908 on a farm outside of Little Rock, Arkansas but grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He quit school before his senior year of high school and for several years worked menial jobs. Despite not finishing school, Perkins was well read and built a network of friends that included intellectuals and artists such as W. E. B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, and Richard Wright. Perkins began to carve stone salvaged from abandoned buildings in the late 1930s and participated in his first exhibition in October, 1938. His sculpture "John Henry" was shown at The Art Institute of Chicago's "53rd Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculptures" in 1942. IBM Corporation bought his "Figure at Rest" and he won his first sculpture prize from The Art Institute of Chicago for "Ethiopia Awakening" in 1947. Perkins' most famous sculpture, "Man of Sorrows" debuted at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1951.

December 17, 1972 Cora Mae Brown, the first African American woman elected to the Michigan State Senate, died. Brown was born April 16, 1914 in Bessemer, Alabama but raised in Detroit, Michigan. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Fisk University in 1935. Brown participated in demonstrations after the 1933 lynching of a young African American accused of attempted rape. It was the beginning of her life long campaign against injustice and inhumanity. Brown returned to Detroit and worked as a social worker and a policewoman from 1941 to 1946. She earned her Bachelor of Laws degree from Wayne State University School of Law in 1948 and passed the bar within two weeks of graduation and entered into private practice. After two unsuccessful attempts, Brown was elected to the Michigan State Senate November 4, 1952 and served two terms, leaving office in 1957. Brown co-sponsored a bill that would revoke or suspend all state and local licenses held by business that discriminated on the basis of race. That bill passed in 1956, the same year that she was selected as the Outstanding Woman Legislator. Brown was appointed special associate general counsel of the United States Postal Service in 1957, the first Black woman on the post office's legal staff. She held that position until 1960 when she moved to Los Angeles, California. Brown returned to Detroit in 1970 and was appointed to the Michigan Employment Security Commission, the first Black woman referee in 35 years. Brown was posthumously inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1992.

December 17, 1975 Noble Sissle, composer, lyricist, bandleader and playwright, died. Sissle was born July 10, 1889 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He started singing in the church choir at an early age and toured the Midwest as part of a gospel quartet as a teenager. He met Eubie Blake in 1915 and they formed a vaudeville musical duo, The Dixie Duo. Although their act contained some of the stereotypes of the day, they refused to wear blackface. They premiered "Shuffle Along" May 23, 1921 and it became the first hit musical on Broadway written by and about African Americans. They also produced the musical "Chocolate Dandies" in 1924. Sissle and Blake then toured Europe as the American Ambassadors of Syncopation. After breaking up with Blake, Sissle enjoyed a successful career as a bandleader of several bands during the 1930s and 1940s. "Reminiscing With Sissle and Blake" was published in 1973 and recounts the lives and music of the men.

December 17, 1975 Theodore Roosevelt "Hound Dog" Taylor, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. Taylor was born April 12, 1915 in Natchez, Mississippi. He originally played the piano but started playing the guitar at 20. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1942 and became a full-time musician in 1957, playing in small clubs around the city. Taylor recorded his debut album, "Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers," in 1971. The only other album released during his lifetime was "Natural Boogie" (1974). Several albums of his music were released after his death, including "Beware of the Dog!" (1976) and "Release The Hound" (2004). Taylor was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984.

December 17, 1978 The Eartha M. M. White Memorial Art and Historical Resources Center in Jacksonville, Florida was dedicated. Eartha Mary Magealene White was born November 8, 1876 in Jacksonville. After high school, she attended the National Conservatory of Music and became an opera singer with the Oriental American Opera Company, the first African American opera company. After traveling throughout the United States and Europe, she returned to Florida in 1896 and taught for 16 years. White and her mother founded the Colored Old Folks Home in 1902 which became the Eartha White Nursing Home and is now Eartha M. M. White Health Care, Inc. White was a licensed real estate broker, owned a dry goods store, a taxi company, and a steam laundry and was the first female employee of the Afro American Life Insurance Company. It is estimated that she accumulated more than $1 million in assets during her lifetime, using most of it for her humanitarian work. These included the Clara White Mission to serve daily meals to the needy, the Boy's Improvement Club to reduce delinquency, a home for unwed mothers, an orphanage and adoption agency, and a program for released prisoners to help re-enter society. White was awarded the Lane Bryant Award for Voluntary Action in 1971. White died January 18, 1974. The Eartha M. M. White Legacy Fund "works to encourage and grow giving among African Americans in Jacksonville in order to strengthen and sustain resources and institutions that are important to the community."

December 17, 1982 Joseph Lee "Big Joe" Williams, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. Williams was born October 16, 1903 in Crawford, Mississippi. He left home in his teens and began wandering the United States playing in bars and work camps. He was in St. Louis, Missouri by 1934 where he recorded such blues hits as "Baby, Please Don't Go" (1935) and "Crawlin' King Snake" (1941). His guitar style and vocals had become popular with folk-blues fans by the late 1950s and he became a regular on the concert circuit, touring throughout the U. S., Europe, and Japan. Williams recorded almost 20 albums, including "Piney Woods Blues" (1958), "Back to the Country" (1964), and "Malvina My Sweet Woman" (1974). He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1992.

December 17, 1993 Moses Gunn, stage, film and television actor, died. Gunn was born October 2, 1929 in St. Louis, Missouri. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tennessee State University in 1959. He then studied at the University of Kansas from 1959 to 1961 in their graduate program for speech and drama. Gunn made his New York stage debut in 1962 in "The Blacks" and went on to win Off-Broadway Theater (OBIE) Awards for his performances in "First Breeze of Summer" (1975) and "Titus Andronicus" (1987). He also was nominated for the 1976 Tony Award for Best Actor for "The Poison Tree." Gunn was co-founder of the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967. He also appeared on film with roles in "Shaft" (1971) and "Shaft's Big Score" (1972) and in 1977 was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series for his role in the television mini-series "Roots."

December 17, 1995 Dorothy Porter Wesley, librarian and curator, died. Wesley was born May 25, 1905 in Warrenton, Virginia. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in 1928 and her Bachelor of Library Science degree in 1931 and Master of Library Science degree in 1932 from Columbia University. Wesley assembled and catalogued an invaluable collection of materials from the African diaspora between 1928 and her retirement in 1973. That collection is now known as the Moorland-Spingarn Research Library at Howard University where scholars and authors interested in African American history can engage in research. To commemorate her retirement, Howard dedicated the Dorothy B. Porter Reading Room in the Founders Library. Wesley also published many bibliographical works, including "A Selected List of Books By and About the Negro" (1936), "The Negro in American Cities: A Selected and Annotated Bibliography" (1945), and "Afro-Braziliana: A Working Bibliography" (1978). Wesley received the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities (now National Humanities Medal), "for outstanding contributions to the public's understanding of the humanities," from President William J. Clinton October 13, 1994. The Dorothy Porter Wesley Research Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is named in her honor.

December 17, 2000 Condoleeza Rice became the first female to hold the position of United States National Security Advisor. Rice was born November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in political science from the University of Denver in 1974, her Master of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1975, and her Ph. D. in political science from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in 1981. Rice served as a professor at Stanford University from 1981 to 1987 and from 1991 to 1992 before being named provost of the university, the first female, first minority, and the youngest provost in Stanford history. Rice served as National Security Advisor until January 26, 2005 when she was confirmed as Secretary of State, the first African American female to hold that position. She was ranked the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine in 2004 and 2005 and number two in 2006. After her tenure as secretary of state, Rice returned to Stanford as a political science professor and the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institute. She became a faculty member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a director of the Global Center for Business and the Economy in 2010. Also that year, Rice published a family history, "Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family," and "No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington" in 2011. Rice became one of the first two women to be admitted as members of Augusta National Golf Club August 20, 2012 and she was selected an inaugural member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee in 2013.

December 17, 2011 Cesaria Evora, Grammy Award winning singer, died. Evora was born August 27, 1941 in Mindelo, Cape Verde. She began singing at a young age but her early recordings were unsuccessful. She went to Paris, France in 1988 and released her debut album, "La Diva Aux Pieds Nus (The Barefoot Diva)." Evora continued to record in Paris and released her first smash hit "Miss Perfumado" in 1993 which was nominated for the 1999 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. Other Grammy nominated albums by Evora include "Cesaria" (1995), "Cabo Verde" (1997), "Café Atlantico" (1999), and "Sao Vicente di Longe" (2001). She won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for "Voz d'Amor."

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Today in Black History, 12/16/2015 | Andrew Jackson Young

December 16, 1976 Andrew Jackson Young became the first African American to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations when he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter. Young was born March 12, 1932 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-dentistry from Howard University in 1951 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Hartford Seminary in 1955. He joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1960 and was named executive director of the organization in 1964. He was a key strategist and negotiator during the civil rights campaigns in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama and St. Augustine, Florida that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Young won election to the United States House of Representatives in 1972 and served until appointed to the U. N. position. Young was elected Mayor of Atlanta in 1981 and served until 1990. He expanded programs for including minority-owned businesses in city contracts, hosted the 1988 Democratic National Convention, and led the effort to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games during his tenure. Young authored "A Way Out of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs of Andrew Young" in 1994 and "An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America" in 1996. He received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1978 Spingarn Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Jimmy Carter January 16, 1981. He has received more than 45 honorary doctorate degrees. The Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse College are named in his honor.

December 16, 1816 William Cooper Nell, abolitionist, author and civil servant, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Nell studied law in the early 1830s but was never certified as a lawyer because he would not swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States which he believed advocated the enslavement of African Americans in the South.Nell was influential in organizing the Freedom Association and the Committee of Vigilance which were all-Black organizations that helped previously enslaved Black people that had fled to the North. Nell worked with Frederick Douglass on the abolitionist publication The North Star from 1848 to 1851 and was instrumental in the 1855 decision to allow African American students In Massachusetts to study alongside their White classmates. Nell was a prolific author and wrote two exhaustive studies of African Americans in war, "Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812" (1851) and "Colored Patriots of the American Revolution" (1855). He became a postal clerk in Boston December 19, 1864, the first African American to work in the federal civil service. Nell died May 25, 1874. "William Cooper Nell: Abolitionist, Historian and Integrationist; Selected Writings, 1832-1874" was published in 2002.

December 16, 1834 George Lewis Ruffin, the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to entering law school, Ruffin worked as a barber, studied law books, and wrote for a weekly publication. He served as a delegate to the 1864 National Negro Convention. Ruffin graduated from Harvard Law School in 1869 and was admitted into the Suffolk County Bar Association. He served on the Boston Common Council from 1876 to 1877 and was appointed a judge on the Charleston, Massachusetts Municipal Court in 1883, the first African American to serve in both positions. Ruffin died November 19, 1886. The George Lewis Ruffin Society was founded at Northeastern University in 1984 to support minorities studying in the Massachusetts criminal justice system.

December 16, 1849 David Ruggles, entrepreneur and anti-slavery activist, died. Ruggles was born March 15, 1810 in Norwich, Connecticut. He moved to New York City and ran a grocery store, opened the first African American bookstore in the United States, and edited a newspaper called The Mirror. Ruggles also published a pamphlet called The Extinguisher and contributed to abolitionist newspapers. He was active in the New York Committee of Vigilance and the Underground Railroad. He actively confronted bounty hunters who made a living by capturing runaways and educated enslaved workers in New York on the state law declaring that enslaved workers be emancipated after nine months of residence. Ruggles was assaulted and his business was destroyed by arson as a result of his activism. Ruggles' biography, "David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City," was published in 2010 and the David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History and Underground Railroad Studies is located in Florence, Massachusetts.

December 16, 1859 Shields Green was hanged for his involvement in John Brown's unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry. He was one of five Black men that participated in the raid. Green was born enslaved around 1836 in South Carolina. He escaped to Rochester, New York as a young man and first met Brown. He later met with Brown in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and decided to join the raid. Green's role in the raid was to recruit other enslaved men to join the fighting. After they were pinned down by Virginia militiamen, several raiders attempted to escape. One of those who did escape, later said that Green could have escaped with him but chose to go back and fight. Green was captured and convicted for treason against the State of Virginia. A cenotaph or empty tomb honoring Green and two other Black residents of Oberlin, Ohio involved in the raid is located in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Oberlin.

December 16, 1859 John Anthony Copeland, Jr. was hanged for his involvement in John Brown's unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry. He was one of five Black men that participated in the raid. Copeland was born in 1834 in Raleigh, North Carolina but raised in Oberlin, Ohio. He worked as a carpenter and briefly attended Oberlin College. He also became involved in the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society and participated in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue in September, 1858. This was a successful effort to free John Price who had escaped from slavery but was captured and held by authorities under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Copeland and others were able to free Price and help him escape to Canada. Copeland was recruited to join the raid on Harpers Ferry in September, 1859. His role was to seize control of Hall's Rifle Works. After they were pinned down by Virginia militiamen, Copeland was captured attempting to escape. He was convicted for treason against the State of Virginia. A cenotaph or empty tomb honoring Copeland and two other Black residents of Oberlin involved in the raid is located in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Oberlin.

December 16, 1870 The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in Jackson, Tennessee. The church was formed by a group of Black ministers who desired to set their own policies, appoint their own bishops and ministers, and control their churches. They were advised and assisted by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The denomination was renamed the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1956 and there are an estimated 850,000 members in 3,500 churches today. "The History of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America: Comprising Its Organization, Subsequent Development, and Present Status" was published in 1898.

December 16, 1933 Charles LeRoy Blockson, Black studies scholar and author, was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Blockson was told by a White teacher that Black people had made no contribution to history. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1956. After serving in the United States Army from 1957 to 1958, he taught local and multicultural history as a human relations advisor for the Norristown Area School District. Blockson traveled the world and amassed one of the world's largest collections of Black history material, including African, African American, and African Caribbean publications and other material dating back to the sixteenth century. Blockson donated the collection to Temple University in 1984. He is considered one of the country's leading experts on the Underground Railroad and published "The Underground Railroad: First Person Narratives of Escapes to Freedom in the North" in 1987. Blockson is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and has received multiple honorary doctorate degrees. Blockson's memoir, "Damn Rare: The Memoirs of an African American Bibliophile," was published in 1988. His most recent work, "The President's House Revisited Behind the Scenes: The Samuel Fraunces Story," was published in 2013.

December 16, 1934 John Edward Jacob, civil rights leader, was born in Trout, Louisiana. Jacob earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1957 and Master of Social Work degree in 1963 from Howard University. He was a social worker in Baltimore, Maryland from 1960 to 1965. He joined the Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Urban League as director of Education and Youth Incentives in 1965 and rose to become president of the NUL in 1982. Jacob fought cutbacks in federal social programs and the weakening of civil rights enforcement during his tenure from 1982 to 1994. He also advocated an urban Marshall Plan including entry level job training, housing, and job placement. Jacob served as an executive vice president at Anheuser-Bushe Corporation and on the board of directors of several other corporations after retiring from the NUL. Jacob is chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of Howard University and the recipient of 19 honorary doctorate degrees. He is currently a senior principal at an engineering firm.

December 16, 1938 Jimmie Lee Jackson, civil rights protester, was born in Marion, Alabama. Jackson was a deacon in his church who had unsuccessfully tried to register to vote for four years. On February 18, 1965, around 500 people attempted a peaceful walk to the Perry County jail where a young civil rights worker was being held. They were met by Marion City police officers, sheriff's deputies, and Alabama State troopers who began to beat the protesters. When Jackson attempted to protect his mother, a trooper shot him twice in the abdomen and he died from the wounds February 26, 1965. Trooper James Bonard Fowler admitted to shooting Jackson but a grand jury declined to indict him. Fowler was charged with first and second degree murder for the death of Jackson May 10, 2007. Two weeks before he was scheduled to go to trial in 2010, Fowler pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor second degree manslaughter charge and was sentenced to six months in jail.

December 16, 1987 Minnie Evans, folk artist, died. Evans was born December 12, 1892 in Pender County, North Carolina but raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. She began drawing on Good Friday, 1935 after she heard a voice that said to her "why don't you draw or die?." Evans had her first formal exhibition of drawings in 1961 and her first New York City exhibition in 1966. A major Evans exhibition was curated at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1975. Evans left more than 400 artworks to the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington. She is recognized as one of the most important folk artist of the 20th century. She was the subject of the 1983 documentary "The Angel That Stands By Me: Minnie Evans' Art" and a retrospective book of her art was published in 2008. May 14, 1994 was declared Minnie Evans Day in Greenville, North Carolina and the Minnie Evans Art Center in Wilmington is named in her honor. Her biography, "Painting Dreams: Minnie Evans, Visionary Artist," was published in 1996.



George Lewis Ruffin

First African American to graduate from Harvard Law School


Minnie Evans

Folk artist

John Edward Jacob

Civil rights protester

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Charles McGee's 2015 Joyce Award win announced day before 91st birthday

Charles McGee's 2015 Joyce Award win announced day before 91st birthday

Dec 15th Annoucement via The Joyce Foundation

Dear Colleague,

It's my great pleasure today to announce the 2016 Joyce Awards winners. Four collaborations between artists of color and cultural organizations in Chicago, Detroit and the Twin Cities have each won $50,000 from the Joyce Foundation's annual Joyce Awards competition. 

The Joyce Awards is the only program supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities. To-date, the Joyce Foundation has awarded $2.6 million to commission 50 new works since the annual program started in 2003.

The 2016 Joyce Awards winners are: 

Charles McGee with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Charles McGee, 91, is perhaps Detroit's most important and influential visual artist. The Joyce Award will allow the Wright Museum to commission McGee for what he has described as his largest and perhaps final outdoor piece, a steel sculpture titled, "United We Stand."The piece will be unveiled in July 2016 to conclude the Wright Museum's celebration of its 50th anniversary and also kick off a yearlong citywide commemoration of the 1967 racial unrest. You can also watch a short video about Charles and his work here [Above].

Juan Angel Chávez with Chicago Children's Museum

Chicago Children's Museum will commission visual artist, Juan Angel Chávez to create a large-scale public art installation spanning the museum's second floor walls and ceiling. Schoolchildren and museum guests will inform the content of Chávez's piece and will continue to evolve over time with audience input. The piece will be installed in the summer of 2017.

Zakiyyah Alexander and Imani Uzuri with the Penumbra Theatre

The Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., will commission musician and composer Imani Uzuri and playwright Zakiyyah Alexander to stage GIRL Shakes Loose Her Skin in the spring of 2017. The play represents new territory for the theater with themes of LGBT rights and social change under the new direction of Sarah Bellamy, who takes over artistic director duties from her father, Lou Bellamy.

Aparna Ramaswamy and Kyle Abraham with Ragamala Dance Company

Minneapolis-based, Ragamala Dance Company, will commission choreographers/performers Aparna Ramaswamy and Kyle Abraham to create a new work to be presented at the Walker Art Center. Drawing from the artists' own experience of cultural hybridity, the work will be informed by concepts of identity and place. The process will incorporate various community discussions and workshops, and premiere in the fall of 2017.

We encourage you to learn more about our winners and share the news within your networks or on social media using the hashtag #JoyceAwards


Sincerely,

Angelique Power

Program Director, Culture

The Joyce Foundation

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The Wright Museum Changes Board Leadership, Adds Trustees

​FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:

Nikia Washington

nwashington@thewright.org

(313) 494-5866

The Wright Museum Changes Board Leadership, Adds Trustees

Announcements and introductions made at museum's annual membership meeting

DETROIT, MI – December 10, 2015: The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History announced the results of elections for the leadership of its Board of Trustees during its annual membership meeting, held Thursday, December 3, 2015. The event, which was free and open to the public, also introduced four new trustees added to its board in 2015. 

Lynn Weaver, vice president of Human Resources for Yazaki North America, Inc., secretary of the museum's board and chair of its nominating committee, made the announcement of transitions for the board's top two officers. Current chair Elizabeth "Betty" Brooks and vice chair Kieth Cockrell of Bank of America complete their tenures at the end of 2015. Newly elected to fill these positions are chairman-elect Eric Peterson, U.S. vice president, diversity dealer relations for General Motors Company; and vice chair-elect Pamela Alexander, director of community development for Ford Motor Company. 

Said outgoing board chair Betty Brooks, "I take immense pride in the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and its growth over the past decade… My greatest point of pride, however, is helping to assemble a Board of Trustees that is second to none. I truly feel that The Wright Museum is equipped with the Wright board to do great things in its next half-century, and beyond." 

Chairman-elect Eric Peterson had words of praise for Brooks. "If you know Betty, it's hard to top the enthusiasm and passion she exudes… I am motivated by her example as I humbly accept the opportunity to fill such grand shoes." About the museum, he stated, "Over the last few years, the board has been focused on supporting the museum's leadership to stabilize and grow the financial base of the organization. We're pleased with our progress and as we step into the next half-century, we look forward to continuing its legacy and positioning this institution as a national treasure and world-class institution." 

Weaver also introduced four new trustees who joined the museum's board in 2015. They are Kelli Coleman, executive vice president, GlobalHue; George R. Hamilton, president, Hamilton Consulting International; Tony Saunders, chief restructuring officer and chief financial officer, Wayne County; and Howard Sims, founder and chairman, SDG Associates. They join The Wright's 33-member board, comprised of the following: 

Pamela Alexander, Ford Motor Company

Rumia Ambrose-Burbank, VMS365 & Sol DeFrio

Jon Barfield, LJ Holdings Investment Company

Michael Bickers, PNC Bank

Yvette Bing, H.T. and Associates Incorporated

Elizabeth "Betty" Brooks

Darrell Burks

Kieth Cockrell, Bank of America

Kelli Coleman, GlobalHue

James P. Cunningham, Williams Williams Rattner & Plunkett, P.C.

Matthew A. Davis, Chase Bank

Walter E. Douglas Sr., Avis Ford

Kala Gibson, Fifth Third Bank

Rod Gillum, Jackson Lewis, LLP.

Joyce Hayes Giles

Kelly Green, The Jackson Group at Morgan Stanley

George Hamilton, Hamilton Consulting International

Ronald Hewitt

Hiram Jackson, Real Times Media, Inc.

John James, James Group International

Dennis Johnson, Comerica Bank

Tom Lewand, Sr., City of Detroit

James W. McGinnis, Ph.D, Law Offices of

James McGinnis

Eric Peterson, General Motors Company

Maureen Roberts

Tony Saunders, Wayne County, Michigan

Jimmy Settles, United Auto Workers

Suzanne Shank-Werdlow, Siebert Brandford Shank & Co.

Howard Sims, SDG Associates

Gary Spicer, Sr., Law Offices of S. Gary Spicer, Sr.

Joni Thrower, Jamjomar, Inc.

Carolynn Walton, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Lynn Weaver, Yazaki North America, Inc 

According to Juanita Moore, president & CEO of The Wright, the museum's 50th anniversary year has been extremely productive, with the museum partnering with more than 150 organizations and entities to present over 350 programs during the past 12 months. She credited the support of its trustees, the museum's staff, and dedicated volunteer corps in making this ambitious schedule possible.

Vice chair-elect Pamela Alexander remarked, "For the museum to have weathered the recession and emerged stronger than ever during its anniversary year is fantastic, especially for the donors, funders, and members who have supported The Wright. Betty Brooks helped insure the institution's stability and service to the community during this transformative period."

Brooks is well known and beloved in the community, having served on numerous boards, including those of the Detroit Historical Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Opera Theatre, and Reading Works. She stated that to serve on The Wright's board was something very special, and she was, "extremely grateful to have had the honor and opportunity." Clearly overcome with emotion, Brooks concluded her remarks by stating, "I see (the museum's) impact, in the summer's festive crowds, the togetherness of a family's Sunday visit, and the sparkle of a child's smile as they are lifted up by their community and taught that their voice, and achievements, matter. I will continue to support this great museum, and look forward to its next half-century of accomplishment." Brooks will continue to serve on the board, which voted to name her chair emeritus.

Peterson promised to continue the trajectory of growth the museum has seen over the past few years. "We can – and will – aim to be the best…and provide a standard of quality that will take us from being the largest, to the leading, museum of African American history in the world."

About the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Founded in 1965 and located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center, The Wright Museum is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. For more information visit TheWright.org.


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