Today in Black History, 05/11/2015 | George Edmund Haynes - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 05/11/2015 | George Edmund Haynes

  • May 11, 1892 Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton became the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby when he won the race at 15. Clayton was born in 1876 in Kansas City, Missouri. He ran away from home to Chicago, Illinois at 12 and worked as a stable hand and exercise rider. Clayton began his professional riding career at 14 and had immediate success. He was one of the leading money winners during the 1890s. He won 144 races and finished in the money 60% of the time in 1895. By 1901, stable owners had switched to only using White jockeys and his career was effectively ended. Clayton moved to California and worked as a bellhop until his death March 17, 1917. A Kentucky historical marker in Louisville notes his historical significance.
  • May 11, 1895 William Grant Still, “the dean” of African American classical composers, was born in Woodville, Mississippi but raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. Still started taking violin lessons at 15 and taught himself to play a number of other instruments. Still attended Wilberforce University where he conducted the university band and started to compose. He also studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. After serving in the United States Navy during World War I, he worked as an arranger for W. C. Handy and later played in the pit orchestra for the musical “Shuffle Along.” Still was the recipient of the first Guggenheim Fellowship in 1934. He conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra July 23, 1936, the first African American to conduct a major American orchestra. His opera “Troubled Island” (1939) was performed by the New York City Opera March 31, 1949, the first opera by an African American to be performed by a major opera company. Despite selling out the first three nights and receiving 22 curtain calls on opening night, the opera was shut down, never to be staged again. “Just Tell the Story: Troubled Island” (2006) delves into some of the reason why. Still eventually moved to Los Angeles, California where he arranged music for films, including “Pennies from Heaven” (1936) and “Lost Horizon” (1937). He received honorary doctorate degrees from a number of institutions, including Oberlin College, Howard University, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the University of Southern California. Still died December 3, 1978. His opera “A Bayou Legend” became the first opera by an African American to be performed on national television when it premiered on PBS June 15, 1981. His biography, “In One Lifetime: A Biography of William Grant Still,” was published in 1984.
  • May 11, 1899 Clifton Reginald Wharton, Sr., the first African American to rise through the ranks of the United States Foreign Service to become an ambassador, was born in Baltimore, Maryland but raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Wharton earned his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1920 and Master of Laws degree in 1923 from Boston University School of Law. He took and passed the first Foreign Service examination in 1924 and became a Foreign Service Officer March 20, 1925. Over the next 25 years, he rose through the ranks and moved through posts in Liberia, Canary Islands, Madagascar, and the Azores. He became the first African American to hold a senior post in Europe when he was appointed first secretary and counsel general in Portugal in 1949. Wharton was appointed U. S. minister to Romania February 8, 1958, the first African American to head a mission outside of Africa. He was appointed U. S. Ambassador to Norway by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, a position he held until his retirement in 1964. Wharton died April 25, 1990. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2006.
  • May 11, 1924 Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first African American to play major league baseball, died. Walker was born October 7, 1857 in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. He played baseball for the Oberlin College team in 1881 and the University of Michigan in 1882. Walker signed with the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883 and they joined the American Association, a major league, in 1884. Walker made his major league debut May 1, 1884 and played 42 games before suffering a season ending injury in July. The Toledo team went out of business at the end of the 1884 season and Walker played with several other teams until 1889. Walker was attacked by a group of White men in Syracuse, New York in 1891, resulting in him stabbing one of them to death. He was charged with murder but acquitted. Walker became a supporter of Black nationalism and believed that racial integration would fail in the United States. He published a pamphlet, “Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present, and Future of the Negro Race in America,” in 1908 and recommended that African Americans immigrate to Africa. His life was the subject of the book “Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart” which was published in 1995.
  • May 11, 1933 Louis Farrakhan, national representative of the Nation of Islam, was born Louis Eugene Walcott in The Bronx, New York. Farrakhan was given a violin at 6 and by 13 he had played with the Boston College Orchestra and the Boston Civic Symphony. He was one of the first Black performers to appear on the television show “Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour” in 1947. Farrakhan recorded several calypso albums under the name The Charmer in the 1950s. He joined the Nation of Islam in 1955 and quickly rose through the ranks to become minister of the Harlem Mosque in 1965 where he served until 1975. After a series of changes within the organization, in 1978 Farrakhan and a group of followers decided to rebuild the original Nation of Islam on the foundation established by Elijah Muhammad. They reestablished the NOI newspaper as “The Final Call” in 1979 and held the first annual Savior’s Day convention since 1975 in 1981. Farrakhan convened the Million Man March in Washington, D. C. in 1995, calling on Black men to renew their commitments to their families and communities. Farrakhan authored “A Torchlight for America” in 1993.
  • May 11, 1934 Blaise Diagne, the first Black African elected to the French National Assembly, died. Diagne was born October 13, 1872 in Goree, Senegal. He studied in France before joining the French Customs Service in 1892. During World War I, he was a leading recruiter of Black West Africans who fought for the French army. Diagne was elected to the French national parliament as Senegal’s representative in 1914 and was elected Mayor of Dakar, Senegal in 1920. He held both positions until his death.  Avenue Blaise Diagne, a large boulevard, and Lycee Blaise Diagne, a high school in Dakar, and Blaise Diagne Airport in Ndiass are named in his honor.
  • May 11, 1970 The Augusta, Georgia Riot began as the result of unrest started when a 16 year old mentally disabled African American boy was killed in the Augusta jail. The one day riot resulted in 6 people killed, 80 people injured, 200 people arrested, and 50 business burned. All 6 people killed were Black men, each one shot in the back by police. Not a single one of the victims was armed and two were teenagers. As a result of the riot, the Interracial Human Relations Committee was formed to deal with race relations surrounding the issues of employment, education, housing, and law enforcement.
  • May 11, 1970 John Cornelius “Johnny” Hodges, hall of fame jazz alto saxophonist, died. Hodges was born July 25, 1906 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is best known for his solo work with Duke Ellington’s big band, being prominently featured on recordings such as “Confab with Rab,” “Jeep’s Blues,” and “Hodge Podge.” Hodges played with Ellington from 1928 to 1950 when he left to lead his own band. Recordings with Hodges as lead include “Castle Rock” (1951), “Blues-A- Plenty” (1958), and “Triple Play” (1967). Ellington stated in his eulogy to Hodges that Hodges had “a tone so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to the eye.” Hodges was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1970.
  • May 11, 1976 The Will Marion Cook House in New York City was designated a National Historic Landmark. Cook lived in the house from 1918 to 1944. It is now privately owned.  Cook was born January 27, 1869 in Washington, D. C. His musical talents were apparent at an early age and he was sent to the Oberlin Conservatory to study violin at 15. Cook studied at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik in Germany from 1887 to 1889 and made his professional debut in 1889. He became director of a chamber orchestra in 1890 and composed “Scenes from the Opera of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” He composed “Clorindy: or, The Origin of the Cakewalk” in 1898, the first all-Black show to play in a prestigious Broadway house. Cook produced many successful musicals, including “Uncle Eph’s Christmas” (1901), “The Southerners” (1904), and “Swing Along” (1929). Cook died July 19, 1944. His biography, “Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook,” was published in 2008.
  • May 11, 1976 The site of the house where William Edward Burghardt Du Bois grew up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts was designated a National Historic Landmark. The site is owned and maintained by the W. E. B. Du Bois Center of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Du Bois was born February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington. 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 at the university. Du Bois authored 22 books, including “The Philadelphia Negro” (1899), “The Souls of Black Folks” (1903), and “Black Folks, Then and Now” (1939). 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 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 April 27, 1963. After his death, the Ghanaian government honored him with a state funeral and the W. E. B. Du Bois Memorial Centre which is located in the Cantonments district of Accra. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1992. Several structures at universities around the country are named in his honor. 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 of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
  • May 11, 1976 The William Monroe Trotter House in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston was designated a National Historic Landmark. Trotter moved into the house in June, 1899 and lived there for most of his career. The house is not open to the public. Trotter was born April 7, 1872 in Chillicothe, Ohio. He earned his bachelor’s degree in international banking, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1895 and was the first African American to be awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key. He earned his Master of Arts degree from Harvard in 1896. He co-founded the Boston Guardian in 1901 and was a charter member of the Niagara Movement in 1905. Trotter led protests against segregation in the federal government and picketed the stage production of “Birth of a Nation,” ultimately forcing it to close. Trotter died April 7, 1934. The William Monroe Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts and the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture at the University of Massachusetts are named in his honor. Trotter’s biography, “The Guardian of Boston,” was published in 1971.
  • May 11, 1976 The home of Madam C. J. Walker, Villa Lewaro, in Irvington-On-Hudson, New York was designated a National Historic Landmark. The mansion is an Italianate villa house with 30 rooms designed by Vertner Woodson Tandy, the first Black registered architect in the state of New York. The house was built between 1916 and 1918 at a cost of $250,000. After Walker’s death, her daughter lived in the house until her death in 1931. It has been a private residence since the mid-1980s. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana. She 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 was willing to work hard.” The Guinness Book of Records cites Walker as the first female who became 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 the time. Walker was posthumously inducted into the Junior Achievement U. S. Business Hall of Fame in 1992. 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). Walker’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
  • May 11, 1976 The house where Louis Daniel “Satchmo” Armstrong lived in Queens, New York for almost 28 years was declared a National Historic Landmark. The house is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Armstrong was born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a teenager, he played with and was mentored by Joe “King” Oliver and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1922 to join Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Armstrong came to prominence in the mid-1920s as an innovative cornet and trumpet player, shifting jazz’s focus from collective improvisation to solo performers. With his distinctive voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer and his influence extended beyond jazz to popular music in general by the 1960s. Armstrong had many hit records, including “Hello Dolly,” which won the 1965 Grammy Award for Song of the Year and Armstrong the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, and “What A Wonderful World” (1968), which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.” In addition to those two recordings, Armstrong has nine other recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1952. Armstrong died July 6, 1971. He was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1995. The Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport is named in his honor. Armstrong published his autobiography, “Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans,” in 1954. Other biographies of Armstrong include “Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971” (1971) and “Louis Armstrong: An American Genius” (1985). 
  • May 11, 1976 The Maria Baldwin House in Cambridge, Massachusetts was declared a National Historic Landmark. It is the northern half of a two-family house that was the home of Maria Louise Baldwin while she served as principal and master of the Agassiz School. The house is now a private home and is not open to the public. Baldwin was born September 13, 1856 in Cambridge. She graduated from the Cambridge training school for teachers in 1875 and taught in Chestertown, Maryland for two years. She was hired to teach at the Agassiz Grammar School of Cambridge in 1881. She became principal of the school in 1889, the first African American female principal in Massachusetts. A new school was erected in 1916, including higher grades, and Baldwin was made master, supervising twelve White teachers and 500 mostly White students. She was one of two women and the only African American master in the Cambridge school system. Baldwin served as master of Agassiz for forty years and under her leadership it was considered one of the best schools in Cambridge. She also taught summer courses for teachers at Hampton Institute (now University) and the Institute for Colored Youth (now Cheney State University). Baldwin also lectured throughout the country on women’s suffrage, poverty, and history. Baldwin died January 9, 1922. The Agassiz school was renamed the Maria L. Baldwin School February 12, 2004.
  • May 11, 1976 St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the first independent Black Episcopal church in Washington, D. C., was designated a National Historic Landmark. It was founded by members of St. Mary’s Chapel for Colored People and their rector Alexander Crummell. The church was designed by Calvin T. S. Brent, one of the first Black architects in D. C., and constructed between 1876 and 1880. The church remains an active parish.
  • May 11, 1976 The Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable Homesite was designated a National Historic Landmark. The site is now a plaza called Pioneer Court located near the junction of the Chicago River and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Du Sable’s birth date is unknown but it is generally believed that he was born around 1745 in what is now Haiti. Not much is known of his early life. Du Sable first arrived on the western shores of Lake Michigan around 1779 where he built the first permanent non-indigenous settlement just east of the present Michigan Avenue Bridge. He managed a huge tract of woodlands on the St. Clair River from 1780 to 1784. Du Sable also operated the first fur-trading post. He left Chicago for Peoria, Illinois in 1800 and moved to St. Charles, Missouri in 1813 where he died August 28, 1818. The State of Illinois and the City of Chicago declared Du Sable “the Founder of Chicago” in 1968 and erected a granite marker at his grave. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1987. DuSable High School and the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago are named in his honor.
  • May 11, 1981 Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, hall of fame singer and songwriter, died. Marley was born February 6, 1945 in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica. He formed a group in 1963 that eventually came to be called The Wailers. Their first album, “Catch a Fire,” was released in 1973 and was followed a year later by “Burnin’” which included the hit songs “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot the Sheriff.” The Wailers disbanded in 1974, although Marley continued to record as Bob Marley & The Wailers. He released the “Natty Dread” album in 1975 and it contained the international hit “No Woman, No Cry.” This was followed the next year by “Rastaman Vibration.” Marley lived in England from 1976 to 1978 and recorded the albums “Exodus” (1977) and “Kaya” (1978). Other albums by Marley include “Babylon by Bus” (1978), “Survival” (1979), and “Uprising” (1980). Marley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Time magazine named his album, “Exodus,” the greatest album of the 20th century in 1999. A number of books have been written about Marley, including “No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley” (2004), “Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley” (2006), and “Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley” (2007).
  • May 11, 1981 Hoyt William Fuller, editor, critic and leading figure in the Black Arts Movement, died. Fuller was born September 10, 1923 in Atlanta, Georgia but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Fuller earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University in 1950 and worked for the Michigan Chronicle and the Detroit Tribune newspapers. Frustrated by American racism, he moved abroad in 1957 living in France, Spain, and Guinea. He shared that experience in a collection of essays, “Journey to Africa,” published in 1971. Fuller returned to the United States in 1960 and became editor of Negro Digest in 1961. In a few years, Negro Digest became the leading forum of the Black Arts Movement and was renamed Black World in 1970. During the 1960s, Fuller also founded the Organization of Black American Culture, a Chicago based writer’s collective which included Haki Madhbuti and Nikki Giovanni, among others. Dudley Randall published “Homage to Hoyt Fuller” in 1984.
  • May 11, 1986 Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, hall of fame football coach and the first African American head coach in the National Football League, died. Pollard was born January 27, 1894 in Chicago, Illinois. He played college football at Brown University from 1915 to 1918. Pollard played professional football with the Akron Pros and led them to the NFL championship in 1920. He became co-head coach of the team in 1921. At the end of the 1926 season, Pollard and the other Black players in the NFL were banned from playing. He continued to coach all-Black barnstorming teams until 1937. Pollard was also involved in a number of business enterprises, including an investment firm, a newspaper, and a booking agency. Pollard was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and annually the Fritz Pollard Award is presented to a college or professional coach chosen by the Black Coaches Association. The Fritz Pollard Alliance is an organization “promoting diversity and equality of job opportunity in the coaching, front office and scouting staffs of National Football League teams.” Pollard’s biography, “Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement,” was published in 1999.
  • May 11, 1996 Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of the Republic of Nigeria, died. Azikiwe was born November 16, 1904 in Zungeru, Nigeria. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Lincoln University in 1931 and his Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933. He returned to Africa in 1934 and became the editor of the African Morning Post, a daily newspaper in Ghana where he promoted a pro-African nationalist agenda. He returned to Nigeria in 1937 and founded several newspapers across the country. He co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons in 1944 and was elected to the Legislative Council of Nigeria in 1947. Azikiwe became the first Nigerian named to the Queen’s Privy Council in 1960 and became the first President of Nigeria in 1963. Azikiwe was removed from office in a military coup in 1966. He served as chancellor of Lagos University from 1972 to 1976. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja and Nnamdi Azikiwe University are named in his honor and his portrait adorns Nigeria’s five hundred naira currency note. His autobiography, “My Odyssey: An Autobiography,” was published in 1971.
  • May 11, 2006 Floyd Patterson, hall of fame boxer, died. Patterson was born January 4, 1935 in Waco, North Carolina. He started boxing at 14 and won the Gold medal at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympic Games as a middleweight. Following the Olympics, Patterson turned professional and became the youngest World Heavyweight Boxing Champion in boxing 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. After retiring, Patterson became chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. 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.
  • May 11, 2006 The Richard H. Austin State Office Building was dedicated in Lansing, Michigan. Richard Henry Austin was born May 6, 1931 in Stouts Mountain, Alabama. He graduated from the Detroit Institute of Technology in 1937. Austin became the first Black Certified Public Accountant in Michigan in 1941 and co-founded the accounting firm Austin, Washington and Davenport in 1959. He served as Wayne County Auditor from 1967 to 1970. Austin was elected Michigan Secretary of State in 1970, the first African American to be elected to a statewide position in Michigan. He served in that position until 1995, the longest serving secretary of state in Michigan history. During his tenure, he supported the enactment of laws mandating the use of seatbelts and child safety seats. He was also referred to as the father of the motor voter law which combined the driver and voter registration processes. Austin died April 20, 2001. Wayne State University established the Richard H. Austin Fund for Accounting Excellence which annually provides scholarships to students who demonstrate the ability to excel in the accounting profession.
  • May 11, 2011 Eugene Edward “Snooky” Young, jazz trumpeter, died. Young was born February 3, 1919 in Dayton, Ohio. He 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. He 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). 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 2009.
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