Today In Black History, 04/27/2015 | Hubert Henry Harrison - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today In Black History, 04/27/2015 | Hubert Henry Harrison


 
  • April 27, 1882 Jessie Redmon Fauset, editor, author and educator, was born in Fredericksville, New Jersey. Fauset earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1905 and is believed to be the second Black woman elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Master of Arts degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania in 1919. Fauset began working at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s The Crisis magazine in 1912 and served as literary editor from 1919 to 1926. She wrote four novels, “There is Confusion” (1924), “Plum Bun” (1928), “The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life” (1931), and “Comedy, American Style” (1933) and several poems and short stories. Fauset also worked as a schoolteacher from 1905 to 1919 and again from 1927 to her retirement in 1949. Fauset died April 30, 1961 and her biography, “Jessie Redmon Fauset: Black American Writer,” was published in 1981.
     
  • April 27, 1895 Percival Prattis, the first African American news correspondent admitted to the press galleries of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prattis attended Hampton Institute (now University) from 1912 to 1915 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University) in 1916. 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. Prattis was admitted to the press galleries of the Senate and House February 3, 1947. After retirement, he continued to be active in the Pittsburgh community, including becoming the first African American officer on the Community Chest of Allegheny County Council. Prattis died February 29, 1980.
     
  • April 27, 1927 Coretta Scott King, civil rights leader and author, was born in Perry County, Alabama. King earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music at Antioch College in 1951. During her time at Antioch, she became active in the Civil Rights Movement, joining the college chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committee. After graduation, she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music where she earned her Bachelor of Music degree in 1954. King married Martin Luther King, Jr. June 18, 1953 and in their early years, was as well- known as a singer as he was a civil rights activist. King played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, taking an active part in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and working hard to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1954. In her later life, King broadened her focus to include women’s rights, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights, and opposition to apartheid, capital punishment, and the war in Iraq. King was the recipient of many honors, including honorary doctorate degrees from Princeton University, Duke University, and Bates College. The American Library Association began awarding the Coretta Scott King medal to outstanding African American writers and illustrators of children’s literature in 1970 and the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy was opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007. King published her autobiography, “My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr.,” in 1969. King died January 30, 2006. Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
     
  • April 27, 1938 Robert Lloyd “Bob” Foster, hall of fame boxer, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Foster joined the United States Air Force right after high school in 1957 and for four years was a member of the air force boxing team as well as a coach. After being honorably discharged, he started his professional boxing career in 1961. In 1968, Foster won the World Light Heavyweight Boxing Championship and successfully defended it 14 times. Foster retired in 1978 with a record of 56 wins, 8 losses, and 1 draw. His only losses were to heavyweights, including Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Many boxing critics consider him one of the greatest light heavyweights of all time. After retiring, Foster worked as a law enforcement officer in Albuquerque for 24 years. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
     
  • April 27, 1945 August Wilson, hall of fame playwright, was born Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Wilson dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and used the Carnegie Library to educate himself. He made such extensive use of the library that they later awarded him an honorary degree. He co-founded the Black Horizon Theater in 1968 and performed his first play, “Recycling.” Wilson moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1978 and took a job writing educational scripts for the Science Museum of Minnesota and began writing his “Pittsburgh Cycle,” a series of ten plays with each set in a different decade that sketch the Black experience in the 20th century. The best known of these plays are “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”(1984), “Fences” (1985), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” (1988), and “The Piano Lesson” (1990), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. Wilson was presented the National Humanities Medal by President William J. Clinton September 29, 1999. Wilson died October 2, 2005. Two weeks after his death, the Virginia Theater in New York City’s Broadway theater district was renamed the August Wilson Theater, the first Broadway theater to bear the name of an African American. In 2006, the African American Cultural Center of Greater Pittsburgh was renamed the August Wilson Center for African American Culture and Wilson was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. His childhood home was declared a historic landmark by the State of Pennsylvania in 2007.
     
  • April 27, 1950 The Group Areas Act (Act No. 41) was created by the apartheid government of South Africa. It assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas of the country. The act led to many non-White people being forcibly removed for living in the “wrong” area and it caused many to commute long distances from their homes to work. The act was repealed June 5, 1991.
     
  • April 27, 1952 George “The Iceman” Gervin, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Gervin played college basketball for Eastern Michigan University and Long Beach State College. He was signed by the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association in 1973. Over his 14 season professional career in the United States, Gervin was a three-time ABA All-Star and a nine-time National Basketball Association All-Star. After leaving the NBA, he played for several years in Europe. Gervin retired in 1990 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Gervin is widely regarded as one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history. He works with underprivileged children in the San Antonio, Texas community through the George Gervin Academy charter school and the George Gervin Youth Center.
     
  • April 27, 1960 The Togolese Republic gained its independence from France. Togo is in western Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east, Burkina Faso to the north, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. Togo is approximately 22,000 square miles in size. The capital and largest city is Lome. Togo has an estimated population of 6.7 million with 65% living in rural villages dedicated to agriculture or pastures. Approximately 29% of the population is Christian, 20% Muslim, and 51% have indigenous African beliefs. The official language is French.
     
  • April 27, 1961 The Republic of Sierra Leone gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Sierra Leone is in western Africa bordered by Guinea to the north, Liberia to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. Sierra Leone is approximately 27,700 square miles in size. The capital and largest city is Freetown. It has an estimated population of 6.5 million of which 60% are Muslim, 10% Christian, and 30% who have indigenous African beliefs. The official language is English.
     
  • April 27, 1963 William Edward Bughardt Du Bois, civil rights activist, historian and author, died. Du Bois was born February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University in 1888. He went on to Harvard University where he earned another Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in 1890, his Master of Arts degree in 1891, and his Ph. D. in 1895, the first African American to earn a doctorate from the university. Du Bois authored 22 books, including “The Philadelphia Negro” (1899), “Souls of Black Folks” (1903), and “Black Folks, Then and Now” (1939) and helped establish four academic journals. Du Bois was the most prominent intellectual leader and political activist on behalf of African Americans in the first half of the 20th century. He helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909 and for 25 years served as the editor-in-chief of The Crisis magazine. Du Bois was awarded the 1920 NAACP Spingarn Medal. In 1963, Du Bois and his wife became citizens of Ghana where he died. After his death, the Ghanaian government honored him with a state funeral and the W. E. B. Du Bois Memorial Centre is located in Accra. The site of the house where Du Bois grew up in Great Barrington was designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1992. The many books about Du Bois include “W. E. B. Du Bois: Negro Leader in a Time of Crisis” (1959) and “W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet” (2007). Du Bois’ name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, Michigan.
     
  • April 27, 1969 Cory Anthony Booker, the first African American United States Senator from New Jersey, was born in Washington, D. C. but raised in Harrington Park, New Jersey. Booker earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1991 and his Master of Arts degree in sociology from Stanford University in 1992. Booker was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford where he earned an honors degree in U. S. history in 1994. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 1997. In 1998, Booker was elected to the Newark City Council where he served until 2002. After a failed run for Mayor of Newark in 2002, he was elected mayor in 2006. Booker relinquished the mayoral position and was elected to the senate October 16, 2013. In the senate, he serves on the Commerce, Science and Transportation, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Environment and Public Works, and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committees.
     
  • April 27, 1972 Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of the Republic of Ghana, died. Nkrumah was born September 21, 1909 in Nkroful, Gold Coast (now Ghana). He moved to the United States in 1935 to further his education, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1939 and his Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree in 1942 from Lincoln University and his Master of Science degree in 1942 and his Master of Arts degree in philosophy in 1943 from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1947, Nkrumah returned to the Gold Coast in 1947 and became the leader of the United Gold Coast Convention which was working on independence from Britain. The colonial administration arrested and sentenced Nkrumah to three years in jail for his political activities in 1950. As the result of international protests and internal resistance, Nkrumah was released from jail in 1951 and elected Prime Minister of the Gold Coast in 1952. Nkrumah declared Ghana independent March 6, 1957 and was elected president in 1960. In February, 1966, Nkrumah’s government was overthrown in a military coup which was backed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency and he went into exile in Guinea. Nkrumah is best remembered for his strong commitment to and promotion of Pan-Africanism and his significant influence in the founding of the Organization of African Unity. Nkrumah was a prolific author and published his autobiography, “Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah,” in 1957.
     
  • April 27, 1977 Thomas Nelson Baker, Jr., educator and the first African American to earn a Ph. D. in chemistry from Ohio State University, died. Baker was born in 1906 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929 and his Master of Arts degree in 1930 in chemistry from Oberlin College. Baker taught chemistry at Tougaloo College and Talledega College before joining Virginia State College (now University) in 1932. He served as professor of chemistry and department chair there until his retirement in 1972. After receiving two fellowships, Baker was able to earn his Ph. D. in chemistry from Ohio State in 1941. He was also active in several professional organizations, including Sigma Xi and the American Chemical Society.
     
  • April 27, 1977 Charles Henry Alston, artist and professor, died. Alston was born November 28, 1907 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929 and his  Master of Fine Arts degree in 1931 from Columbia University. Alston began his art career illustrating album covers for Duke Ellington and book covers for Langston Hughes. During the Great Depression, he co-directed the Harlem Art Workshop where he was a mentor to Jacob Lawrence, among others. Alston was the first African American instructor at the Art Students League of New York where he worked from 1950 to 1971. He became a full professor at the City University of New York in 1973. His works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His biography, “Charles Alston,” was published in 2007.
     
  • April 27, 1984 The Whitney M. Young Birthplace and Boyhood Home in Simpsonville, Kentucky was designated a National Historic Landmark. Whitney Moore Young, Jr. was born July 31, 1921 in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Kentucky State University in 1941 and his Master of Arts degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1947. Young served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1945, rising to the rank of first sergeant. Young became executive director of the National Urban League in 1961 and served there until his death March 11, 1971. During that time, he worked to end employment discrimination in the United States and turned the NUL from a relatively passive civil rights organization into one that aggressively fought for equitable access to socioeconomic opportunity for the historically disenfranchised. He also expanded the organization from 38 employees to 1,600 and the annual budget from $325,000 to $6,100,000. Young was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Lyndon B. Johnson January 20, 1969. Hundreds of schools and other sites are named in his honor. In addition, Clark Atlanta University named its School of Social Work in his honor and the Boy Scouts of America created the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1981. Young authored “To Be Equal” (1964) and “Beyond Racism: Building an Open Society” (1969). His biography, “Whitney M. Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights,” was published in 1989.
     
  • April 27, 1994 The first South African general election after the end of apartheid was held to elect the National Assembly. This was the first election in South Africa with universal adult suffrage. The African National Congress won 62.65% of the 19.7 million votes cast. This date is celebrated annually in South Africa as Freedom Day.
    • April 27, 2009 Frankie Manning, hall of fame dancer, instructor and choreographer, died. Manning was born May 26, 1914 in Jacksonville, Florida but raised in Harlem, New York. Manning joined Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in 1935 and created the troupe’s first ensemble routines. He created a small performance group called the Congaroos in 1947 and they performed until 1955. Manning co-choreographed the Broadway musical “Black and Blue” at 75 and received the 1989 Tony Award for Best Choreography, and he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship in 2000. Manning is considered one of the founding fathers of the Lindy Hop and his autobiography, “Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop,” was published in 2007. Manning was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 2009.
       
    • April 27, 2009 Ernest Eugene Barnes, Jr., former professional football player and artist, died. Barnes was born July 15, 1938 in Durham, North Carolina. He played college football and majored in art at North Carolina Central University. Barnes was selected by the New York Titans in the 1960 American Football League Draft and played for four years before retiring in 1964. While playing, he continued painting and his most famous painting, “The Sugar Shack” (1971), was featured on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album “I Want You” and in the closing credits of the television situation comedy “Good Times.” He was named Official Artist of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and received the 1984 and 2004 Sports Artist of the Year Award from the American Sport Art Museum and Archives. Barnes was commissioned to produce paintings by a number of organizations, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Carolina Panthers, and the National Basketball Association. He received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from North Carolina Central in 1990 and received The University Award, the highest honor given by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in 1999. Barnes published his autobiography, “Pads to Palette,” in 1995.
       
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