Today in Black History 05/02/2015 | Elijah J. McCoy - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 05/02/2015 | Elijah J. McCoy

 

  • May 2, 1870 William Joseph Seymour, minister and initiator of the Pentecostal religious movement, was born in Centerville, Louisiana. As a young man, Seymour was exposed to various Christian traditions. He heard the Pentecostal message for the first time in 1905 and developed the belief in speaking in tongues as a confirmation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Seymour conducted the Azusa Street Revival from 1906 to 1909 and it drew thousands of worshippers. Seymour rejected racial barriers in favor of “unity in Christ” and also rejected barriers to women in church leadership. His movement became known as Pentecostalism and spread around the world. Seymour died September 28, 1922. The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary dedicated their new chapel to Seymour’s memory in 1998 and the Religion Newswriters Association named the Azusa Street Revival as one of the top ten events of the 20th century in 1999. Seymour’s biography, “The Life and Ministry of William J. Seymour,” was published in 2006.
  • May 2, 1878 Nannie Helen Burroughs, educator, businesswoman and religious leader, was born in Orange, Virginia but raised in Washington, D. C. Burroughs studied business and domestic science in high school and graduated with honors in 1896. That same year, she helped establish the National Association of Colored Women. She founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington D. C. October 19, 1909 to prepare students for employment. The school was renamed the National Trades and Professional School for Women in 1934. Burroughs served as principal of the school until her death May 20, 1961. The school was renamed Nannie Helen Burroughs School in her honor in 1976, designated a National Historic Landmark July 17, 1991, and continues to operate today as a private coeducational school for nursery through sixth grade students. Burroughs was also active with the National League of Republican Colored Women and the National Association of Wage Earners. Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE in D. C. is also named in her honor.
  • May 2, 1922 Richard Theodore Greener, the first African American to graduate from Harvard College, died. Greener was born January 30, 1844 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After three years at Oberlin College, he transferred to Harvard and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, in 1870. After teaching for two years at the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheyney University) and serving as principal of the Preparatory School for Colored Children (now Dunbar High School), Greener accepted a professorship at the University of South Carolina. From 1878 to 1880, he served as dean of the Howard University School of Law. Greener served as secretary of the Grant Monument Association from 1885 to 1892 and as a civil service examiner in New York City from 1885 to 1890. Greener was appointed the United States Commercial Agent in Russia in 1898, a position he held until 1905. Greener received honorary Doctorate of Laws degrees from Monrovia College in Liberia in 1882 and Howard University in 1907. Phillips Academy annually awards the Richard T. Greener 1865 Endowed Scholarship.
  • May 2, 1925 Roscoe Lee Browne, hall of fame actor and director, was born in Woodbury, New Jersey. Browne earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Lincoln University in 1946 and won the 1949 Amateur Athletic Union 1,000-yard National Indoor Championship. Browne began his acting career with the Shakespeare Festival Theater and had his first movie role in 1961 when he voiced a part off-screen in “The Connection.” His first significant film role was in “Black Like Me” in 1964. Other films in which he appeared include “Topaz” (1969), “The Liberation of L. B. Jones” (1970), and “The Mambo Kings” (1992). Browne became a regular cast member on the television series “That Was the Week That Was” in 1964 and over the years appeared as a guest star on many comedy and dramatic shows. He won the 1986 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor for an appearance on “The Cosby Show.” Browne continued to work in theater throughout his career, including appearing in “Two Trains Running” for which he was nominated for the 1992 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play.  Browne died April 11, 2007. He was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2009.
  • May 2, 1925 Isaih Mays, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Mays was born enslaved February 16, 1858 in Carters Bridge, Virginia. By May 11, 1889, he was serving as a corporal in Company B of the 24th Infantry Regiment. On that day, he was involved in an engagement with robbers and his actions earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration, which was awarded February 19, 1890. His citation reads, “Gallantry in the fight between Paymaster Wham’s escort and robbers. Mays walked and crawled 2 miles to a ranch for help.” Mays left the army in 1893. He applied for a federal pension in 1922 but was denied. Mays died penniless and his grave was marked with only a small stone etched with a number. The marker was replaced with an official United States Department of Veteran Affairs headstone in 2001. His remains were disinterred, cremated, and placed in an urn in March, 2009 and on May 29, 2009 they were interred in Arlington National Cemetery May 29, 2009.
  • May 2, 1945 Monroe Nathan Work, sociologist and bibliographer, died. Work was born August 15, 1866 in Iredell County, North Carolina but raised in Summer County, Kansas. He enrolled in high school at 23 and graduated third in his class. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1902 and Master of Arts degree in sociology in 1903 from the University of Chicago. While in college, Work wrote a paper on crime in the African American community that became the first article written by a Black scholar published in the American Journal of Sociology. He taught at Georgia State Industrial College (now Savannah State University) from 1903 to 1908. While there, Work founded the Savannah Men’s Sunday Club to improve living conditions among poor African Americans in the city. He moved to Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1908 and established the Department of Records and Research to compile and catalogue material on the African American experience. This resulted in the publication of the first “Negro Year Book” in 1912. Published annually, Negro Year Book became the most well-known source of facts about Black life and people in the United States. Also in 1912, Work published the first of a biannual lynching report which publicized the practice to the nation. He published “A Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America” in 1928. Work retired from Tuskegee around 1938 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Howard University in 1943.
  • May 2, 1953 Jamaal Wilkes, hall of fame basketball player, was born Jackson Keith Wilkes in Berkley, California. Wilkes played college basketball at the University of California, Los Angeles and was a two-time All-American, three-time Academic All-American, and won two National Collegiate Athletic Association championships. Wilkes earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from UCLA in 1974. That same year, he was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association Draft. Wilkes converted to Islam in 1975 and legally changed his name to Jamaal Abdul-Lateef. Over his twelve season professional career, Wilkes was the 1975 Rookie of the Year, three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive team member, and four-time NBA champion. After retiring from basketball in 1985, he worked in the real estate and financial services industries. He co-founded Jamaal Wilkes Financial Advisors in 2003, a firm specializing in wealth management solutions. He also co-authored the book and audio course “Success Under Fire: Lessons For Being Your Best In Crunch Time.” Wilkes was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 and that same year his number 52 jersey was retired by the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • May 2, 1963 The Children’s Crusade was began in Birmingham, Alabama. The crusade was organized by Rev. James Bevel and consisted of four days of marches by hundreds of children to protest segregation. Many of the children were arrested, set free, and arrested again the next day. The marches were halted when the local police turned fire hoses and police dogs against the children. The crusade was a pivotal event leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • May 2, 1976 Daniel Robert Bankhead, the first Black pitcher in Major League Baseball, died. Bankhead was born May 3, 1920 in Empire, Alabama. After a strong career in the Negro league, he was signed to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers at 24. Bankhead made his debut with the Dodgers August 26, 1947. An excellent hitter, he hit a home run in his first major league at bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, his pitching career was not as good with a career record of nine wins, six losses, and an earned run average of 6.52.
  • May 2, 1990 William Levi Dawson, professor, choir director and composer, died. Dawson was born September 26, 1899 in Anniston, Alabama. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree, with honors, from the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in 1925 and his Master of Music degree from the American Conservatory of Music in 1927. Dawson served as professor of music at Tuskegee Institute from 1931 to 1956 and during that time developed the Tuskegee Institute Choir into an internationally known ensemble. Dawson began composing at a young age and his best known works are arrangements and variations on spirituals. His “Negro Folk Symphony” garnered attention at its world premier by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934. The symphony was later revised to “convey the missing elements that were lost when Africans came into bondage outside their homeland.” Dawson was honored with Wanamaker Awards from the National Association of Negro Musicians in 1930 and 1931 and was given honorary doctorate degrees by Tuskegee University in 1955 and Lincoln University in 1978. He was elected to the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity in 1977.
  • May 2, 1996 Queen Mother Moore, Black nationalist and civil rights activist, died. Moore was born Audley Moore July 27, 1898 in New Iberia, Louisiana. Her formal education ended after the third grade. She moved to Harlem, New York in the 1920s and joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association. She participated in the UNIA’s first international convention and was a stock owner in the Black Star Line. Moore was the founder of the Universal Association of Ethiopian Women and the Committee for Reparations for Descendents of U. S. Slaves. She was also a founding member of the Republic of New Africa. From 1950 to her death, Moore fought for reparations for descendents of enslaved Black people, including presenting petitions to the United Nations in 1957 and 1959 calling for $200 billion for 400 years of slavery. Moore was given the honorary title Queen Mother by the Ashanti people of Ghana in 1972. She also was one of five female speakers at the Million Man March in 1995.
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