Today in Black History 06/01/2015 | Morgan Freeman - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 06/01/2015 | Morgan Freeman

  • June 1, 1875 Alexander P. Ashbourne of Oakland, California received patent number 163,962 for a process for refining coconut oil for domestic use. His process allowed the coconut to retain its flavor for years without depreciation. Additionally, Ashbourne received patent number 170,460 for an improved biscuit cutter November 30, 1875, patent number 194,287 for a process for treating coconut August 21, 1877, and patent number 230,518 for a process for preparing coconut July 27, 1880. Not much else is known of Ashbourne’s life except that he was a successful dry goods grocer.

  • June 1, 1919 Caroline Still Wiley Anderson, educator and physician, died. Anderson was born November 1, 1848 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1868, the only Black woman in her class, and returned to Philadelphia to teach. She later taught music, drawing, and elocution at Howard University. Anderson then decided to become a medical doctor and graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1878, the state’s first Black female doctor. In addition to her private practice, Anderson ran the Berean Dispensary and the Berean Cottage which served poor women and children. She also helped found the Berean Manual Training and Industrial School and acted as assistant principal and taught elocution, physiology, and hygiene. Anderson helped to establish Philadelphia’s first Black Young Women’s Christian Association in the early 1900s. She was also treasurer for the Women’s Medical College Alumnae Association, president of the Berean Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and on the board of the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored People of Philadelphia.

  • June 1, 1920 Marie Roach Knight, gospel and R&B singer, was born in Sanford, Florida. Knight first toured with evangelist Frances Robinson in 1939 and made her first recordings as a member of The Sunset Four in 1946. That same year, she met Sister Rosetta Tharpe and they performed and recorded together until 1951, recording such hits as “Up Above My Head” (1948) and “Gospel Train” (1949). Knight went solo in 1951 and recorded the album “Songs of the Gospel” in 1956. In the late 1950s, Knight began to record secular music with her biggest hit being “Cry Me a River” in 1965. She also toured with Brook Benton, The Drifters, and Clyde McPhatter. She returned to gospel music in the mid-1970s and recorded “Marie Knight: Today” (1975) and “Let Us Get Together” (2007). Knight died August 30, 2009.

  • June 1, 1935 Rev. Ike, minister and evangelist, was born Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II in Ridgeland, South Carolina. Rev. Ike began his career as a teenage preacher and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in theology from American Bible College in 1956. After serving in the United States Air Force as a chaplain, he founded the United Church of Jesus Christ for All People in Beaufort, South Carolina, the United Christian Evangelistic Association in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Christ Community United Church in New York City. Rev. Ike preached the blessings of material prosperity and at its peak in the mid-1970s, his television and radio ministry reached approximately 2.5 million people across the United States. A magazine he founded, “Action!,” reached more than a million readers. With the sales of motivational books, tapes, videos, and donations from his supporters, Rev. Ike became a millionaire. His slogan was “You can’t lose with the stuff I use.” Rev. Ike died July 28, 2009.
  • June 1, 1939 Cleavon Jake Little, film and stage actor, was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Little earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in dramatic arts from San Diego State University and completed his graduate studies at Juilliard. He made his professional debut in the Off-Broadway production of “MacBird” in 1967. The following year, Little made his first film and television appearances. He made his Broadway debut in “Jimmy Shine” in 1969 and won the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in “Purlie” in 1971. Other Broadway appearances include “All Over Town” (1975), “The Poison Tree” (1976), and “I’m Not Rappaport” (1988). Film roles include “Vanishing Point” (1971), “Blazing Saddles” (1974), “Once Bitten” (1985), and “Fletch Lives” (1989). Little won the 1989 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor for an appearance on the television series “Dear John.” He also appeared in the television docu-drama, “Separate But Equal” in 1991. Little died October 22, 1992.

  • June 1, 1942 Alfred Masters became the first African American in the United States Marine Corps. Masters was born February 5, 1916 in Palestine, Texas. After his swearing in, he trained at Montford Point, North Carolina where other African American marines 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.

  • June 1, 1948 John Lee Curtis “Sonny Boy” Williamson, hall of fame blues harmonica player, was killed. Williamson was born March 30, 1914 near Jackson, Tennessee. His first recording, “Good Morning, School Girl,” was a major hit on the “race record” market in 1937 and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1990. Other well-known recordings by Williamson include “Check Up on My Baby” (1944), “Stop Breaking Down” (1945), and “Shake the Boogie” (1947). Williamson was the most widely heard and influential blues harmonica player of his generation and was often referred to as “the father of modern blues harp.” He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. A Tennessee state historical marker in Jackson was dedicated in his honor in 1990.
  • June 1, 1948 Robert Henry Jenkins, Jr., Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Interlachen, Florida. Jenkins enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1968 and within two months was promoted to private first class. On March 5, 1969, while serving as a marine gunner with Company C, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division in the Republic of Vietnam, Jenkins’ actions earned him the medal. His citation partially reads, “the Marines were assaulted by a North Vietnamese Army platoon employing mortar, automatic weapons, and hand grenades. Reacting instantly, pfc. Jenkins and another Marine quickly moved into a two-man fighting emplacement, and as they boldly delivered accurate machine gun fire against the enemy, a North Vietnamese soldier threw a hand grenade into the friendly emplacement. Fully realizing the inevitable results of his action, pfc. Jenkins quickly seized his comrade, and pushing the man to the ground, he leaped on top of the Marine to shield him from the explosion. Absorbing the full impact of the detonation, pfc. Jenkins was seriously injured and subsequently succumbed to his wounds.” The medal, America’s highest military decoration, was presented to Jenkins’ family by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew April 20, 1970.

  • June 1, 1966 The White House Conference on Civil Rights, titled “To Fulfill These Rights,” was convened. President Lyndon B. Johnson convened the two day conference to address discrimination against African Americans. The four areas covered were housing, economic security, education, and the administration of justice. There were more than 2,400 participants representing most of the major civil rights organizations. Out of the conference came a hundred-page report that called for legislation to ban racial discrimination in housing and the administration of criminal justice.

  • June 1, 1991 Davis Eli “David” Ruffin, hall of fame former lead singer of The Temptations, died. Ruffin was born January 18, 1941 in Whynot, Mississippi. He began singing as a young child in a family gospel group. He moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1957 and recorded his first single, “You and I” (1958). Other early recordings include “I’m In Love” (1961) and “Knock You Out With Love” (1962). He joined The Temptations in 1964 and over the four years he was with the group sang lead on a number of hits, including, “My Girl” (1964), “It’s Growing” (1965), “Beauty is Only Skin Deep” (1966), “I Wish It Would Rain” (1967), and “I Could Never Love Another” (1968). He left the group in 1968 and returned to a solo career. His first solo recording was “My Whole World Ended” (1969). Other solo recordings include “I’m So Glad I Feel For You” (1970), “Common Man” (1973), and “Walk Away From Love” (1975). Ruffin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with The Temptations in 1989.  


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