Today in Black History, 05/13/2015 | Stevie Wonder - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 05/13/2015 | Stevie Wonder

May 13, 1831 Edward Park Duplex, the first African American mayor in the western United States, was born in New Haven, Connecticut. Duplex 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. Duplex died January 5, 1900. 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.” 

May 13, 1862 Robert Smalls, an enslaved African American serving as a helmsman on a Confederate military transport during the Civil War, and other Black crewmen took over the ship and handed it over to the Union Navy. Smalls was born enslaved April 5, 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina. His actions on the ship made him famous in the North and Congress passed a bill rewarding him and his crewmen prize money for the captured ship. Smalls returned to Beaufort and purchased the estate of his former master. Smalls served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1870, the South Carolina Senate from 1871 to 1874, and the United States House of Representatives from 1875 to 1879 and 1882 to 1883. He also served as the U. S. Collector of Customs from 1889 to 1911. Smalls died February 23, 1915. The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort was designated a National Historic Landmark May 30, 1973 and Robert Smalls Middle School in Beaufort is named in his honor. The U. S. Army commissioned a Logistics Support Vessel in his name September 15, 2007, the first army vessel named for an African American. Biographies of Smalls include “From Slavery to Public Service: Robert Smalls, 1839-1915” (1971) and “Gullah Statesman: Robert Smalls From Slavery to Congress, 1839-1915” (1995). An exhibition, “The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls,” was curated by the South Carolina State Museum in 2012.

May 13, 1913 William Richard Tolbert, Jr., former President of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Bensonville, Liberia. Tolbert graduated, summa cum laude, from the University of Liberia in 1934 and entered government in 1935 as a civil servant. Tolbert was also an ordained minister and became the first African to serve as president of the Baptist World Alliance in 1965. Tolbert was elected Vice President of Liberia in 1951 and served until the death of President William Tubman in 1971. Tolbert succeeded Tubman as President of Liberia and served until April 12, 1980 when he was killed in a coup d’etat.

May 13, 1914 Joe Louis, hall of fame boxer known as “the Brown Bomber,” was born Joseph Louis Barrow in La Fayette, Alabama but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Louis made his amateur boxing debut in 1932 and at the end of his amateur career in 1934 had a record of 50 wins and 4 losses. Louis turned professional in 1934 and won the Associated Press’ 1935 Athlete of the Year Award. He won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1937 and thousands of African Americans across the country stayed up all night celebrating. Louis held the championship for 140 consecutive months and had 25 successful title defenses, both records for the heavyweight division. His defeat of the German Max Schmeling and his service during World War II made him the first African American to achieve the status of national hero in the United States. He was awarded the Legion of Merit medal in 1945 for “incalculable contribution to the general morale.” Louis initially retired from boxing in 1949 but had to return due to financial problems. Of the more than $4.5 million earned during his boxing career, Louis received about $800,000 and was generous with that. He retired for good in 1951 with a record of 65 wins and 3 losses. Louis died April 12, 1981. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1982. A monument to Louis was dedicated in Detroit October 16, 1986 and he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Joe Louis Arena in Detroit is named in his honor. He became the first boxer to be honored with a commemorative postage stamp by the United States Postal Service in 1993 and an 8 foot bronze statue of him was unveiled in La Fayette February 27, 2010. Louis was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization. He published his autobiography, “Joe Louis: My Life,” in 1978. Other biographies include “Joe Louis, Brown Bomber” (1980) and “Joe Louis: The Great Black Hope” (1998). Louis’ name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

May 13, 1925 Carolyn Robertson Payton, the first female and the first African American Director of the United States Peace Corps, was born in Norfolk, Virginia. Payton earned her Bachelor of Science degree in home economics from Bennett College in 1945 and her Master of Science degree in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1948. Her expenses at the University of Wisconsin were paid by the state of Virginia because her area of study was only offered at White colleges in Virginia which she could not attend because of her race. Payton earned her Doctor of Education degree in counseling and student administration from Columbia University in 1962. Payton taught psychology at several colleges before joining the Peace Corps in 1964. She progressed through several assignments before being appointed director in 1977. She held that position for 13 months before resigning over policy differences. Payton then returned to Howard University as Dean of Counseling and Career Development. She retired from Howard in 1995. Payton was active with the American Psychological Association and was made an APA fellow in 1987. She received the APA Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology in 1997 for her “dedication to using psychology to promote better cross-culture understanding and to end social injustice by influencing political process.” Payton died April 11, 2001.

May 13, 1943 Mary Esther Wells, R&B singer and “The Queen of Motown,” was born in Detroit, Michigan. By ten, Wells had moved from singing in church choirs to performing in nightclubs around Detroit. She was signed to Tamla Records, a subsidiary of Motown, in 1960 and wrote and recorded “Bye Bye Baby” which peaked at number eight on the R&B charts. In 1962, Wells released “The One Who Really Loves You,” her first big hit, “You Beat Me to the Punch,” which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best R&B Recording, and “Two Lovers,” which sold more than a million copies. These releases made her Motown’s first female star and successful solo artist. Wells released “My Guy” in 1964 and it sold more than a million copies and was the number one R&B single of the year. Wells left Motown in 1965 and retired from the music industry in 1974 to raise her family. She returned to recording in 1981 with the album “In and Out of Love” which contained the single “Gigolo” which was Wells’ last chart single. She was presented the Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1989. Wells died July 26, 1992. Her song “My Guy” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.” “Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown’s First Superstar” was published in 2012.

May 13, 1950 William Manning Marable, educator and author, was born in Dayton, Ohio. Marable earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Earlham College in 1971, his Master of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1972, and his Ph. D. from the University of Maryland in 1976. Starting in 1974, he taught at several universities, including Tuskegee University, Cornell University, Ohio State University, and the University of Colorado. Marable joined Columbia University in 1989 and eventually became the M. Moran Weston and Black Alumni Council Professor of African American Studies. Marable founded the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia in 1993. He also was a founding director of the Africana and Hispanic Studies Program at Colgate University. Marable authored several books, including “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America” (1983), “Beyond Black and White” (1995), and “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” (2011). Marable died April 1, 2011. He was posthumously awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for History for his book on Malcolm X.

May 13, 1951 Sharon Sayles Belton, the first African American and first female Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Belton studied biology and sociology at Macalester College and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1973. She was elected to the Minneapolis City Council in 1983 and was a Minnesota representative to the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Belton was elected president of the city council in 1990. She was elected mayor in 1993 and re-elected in 1997. During her two terms in office, she helped to increase downtown investment, stabilized the neighborhoods, and reduced crime. Belton was defeated for re-election in 2001 and became a senior fellow at the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice. She is currently vice president of community relations and government affairs at Thomson Reuters Corporation. The Sharon Sayles Belton Bridge in Minneapolis is named in her honor.

May 13, 1961 Dennis Keith Rodman, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Trenton, New Jersey. Rodman played college basketball at Southeastern Oklahoma State University where he was a three-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American and led the NAIA in rebounding in 1984 and 1985. He was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the 1986 National Basketball Association Draft. Over his 14 season NBA career, Rodman was a seven-time All-Defensive First Team selection and Defensive Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991. He also led the league in rebounds per game a record seven consecutive years. Rodman last played in the NBA in 2000. He wrote two autobiographies, “Bad As I Wanna Be” (1997) and “I Should Be Dead By Now” (2005). He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Pistons retired his number 10 jersey in 2011.  

May 13, 1985 The Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on the headquarters of the MOVE organization resulting in a fire that consumed an entire city block and killed 6 adults and 5 children. MOVE was a Philadelphia based Black liberation group founded in 1972 as the Christian Movement for Life. The actions on this day resulted from a standoff between the police and members of the organization. The 1986 report by an investigative commission appointed by the mayor denounced the actions of the city government, stating that “dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable.” A jury ordered the City of Philadelphia to pay $1.5 million to a survivor and relatives of two people killed in the incident in 1996. Several books have been written about the incident, including “Burning Down the House: MOVE and the Tragedy of Philadelphia” (1987) and “The City of Philadelphia versus MOVE” (1994).

May 13, 2008 Karen Ruth Bass was sworn in as speaker of the California State Assembly, the first African American female speaker of a state House of Representatives. Bass was born October 3, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in health sciences from California State University in 1990. She initially worked as a physician assistant and clinical instructor. She also founded the Community Coalition “to change public policy to improve health, education and public safety in South Los Angeles.” Bass was elected to the California State Assembly in 2004. She served as speaker until 2010 when she was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Bass was re-elected to her third term in 2014 and serves on the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Today in Black History 05/12/2015 | Samuel “Toothp...
Today in Black History, 05/14/2015 | Selma to Mon...
Powered by EasyBlog for Joomla!