Today in Black History, 06/08/2015 | Arturo Alfonso Schomburg - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/08/2015 | Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

  • June 8, 1823 Robert Morris, one of the first Black lawyers in the United States, was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He became the student of a well-known abolitionist and lawyer and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1847. Shortly after starting his practice, Morris became the first Black lawyer to file a lawsuit on behalf of a client in the U. S. The jury ruled in favor of Morris’ client. Morris was active in abolitionist causes and worked in opposition of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. He also filed the first U. S. civil rights challenge to segregated schools in the 1848 Roberts v. Boston case. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled against Morris in 1850. In the early 1850s, he was appointed a justice of the peace and was admitted to practice before U. S. district courts. When the Civil War began, Morris helped in the recruitment of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first officially sanctioned African American unit in the U. S. Army, while also advocating for equal treatment of African American soldiers. Morris died December 12, 1882.
  • June 8, 1868 Robert Robinson Taylor, the first African American student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and architect, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. Taylor enrolled at MIT in 1888 and earned his degree in architecture in 1892. After graduating, he worked at Tuskegee Institute (now University) as architect and director of mechanical industries until his retirement in the mid-1930s. Taylor designed most of the buildings at Tuskegee completed prior to 1932, including Tuskegee Chapel. He also designed the Carnegie libraries at Wiley University and Livingston College. Taylor went to Liberia in 1929 to design architectural plans and devise a program in industrial training for the proposed Booker Washington Institute. He also served on the Mississippi Valley Flood Relief Commission, chaired the Tuskegee chapter of the American Red Cross, and served on the board of Fayetteville State University. Taylor died December 13, 1942. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2015.
  • June 8, 1874 Virginia Estelle Randolph, educator and pioneer of vocational training, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Randolph began her career as a teacher when she opened the one room Mountain Road School in Henrico County, Virginia. In addition to academics, she taught her students woodworking, sewing, cooking, and gardening. In 1908, Randolph was named the United States’ first “Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher,” becoming the recipient of funding to maintain and assist rural schools for African Americans in the South. As the overseer of 23 elementary schools, Randolph developed the first in-service training program for Black teachers. She also authored the “Henrico Plan” which became a reference book for southern schools receiving funding from the Jeanes Foundation. Randolph’s teaching philosophy and techniques were later adopted by Great Britain in their African colonies. She also founded the first Arbor Day Program in Virginia in 1908. She and her students planted 12 Sycamore trees. The trees still standing were named the first notable trees in Virginia by the National Park Service in 1976. Randolph retired in 1949 and the Virginia Randolph Foundation was formed in 1954 to annually award scholarships to Henrico County high school students to attend college. Randolph died March 16, 1958. The Virginia Randolph Home Economics Cottage was designated a National Historic Landmark December 2, 1974. Virginia Randolph Community High School in Glen Allen, Virginia is named in her honor.
  • June 8, 1877 Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, painter and sculptor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fuller’s career as an artist began when one of her high school projects was chosen to be included in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Based on that work, she won a scholarship to the Pennsylvania Museum & School of Industrial Art. Fuller graduated with honors in 1898 and traveled to Paris, France in 1899 for additional training. She returned to Philadelphia in 1902 and became the first African American woman to receive a United States government commission when she was commissioned to create several dioramas depicting historical African American events for the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition in 1907. Fuller’s most famous work, “The Awakening of Ethiopia” (1910), is in the collection of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Fuller died March 18, 1968. “An Independent Woman: The Life and Art of Meta Warrick Fuller (1877-1968)” was published in 1984. Fuller Middle School in Framingham, Massachusetts is named in honor of Fuller and her husband.
  • June 8, 1912 Robert Penn, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Penn was born October 10, 1872 in City Point, Virginia. On July 20, 1898, he was serving as a fireman first class on the USS Iowa off the coast of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish – American War. His actions that day earned him the medal, America’s highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, “Performing his duty at the risk of serious scalding at the time of the blowing out of the manhole gasket on board the vessel, Penn hauled the fire while standing on a board thrown across a coal bucket 1 foot above the boiling water which was still blowing from the boiler.” Not much else is known of Penn’s life.
  • June 8, 1925 Henry Cabot Lodge Bohler, former Tuskegee Airman, was born in Augusta, Georgia. Bohler enlisted in the United States Army Air Force at 17 and trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field, earning his wings in 1944. Bohler remained with the air force until 1947, rising to the rank of second lieutenant. After leaving the military, Bohler graduated from Hampton University and moved to Tampa, Florida where he became the city’s first licensed African American electrician. Bohler and his family were denied entry to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa in 1960 and Bohler sued the city for discrimination. The suit resulted in a 1962 federal order requiring Tampa to intergrate its public recreation facilities. Bohler died August 10, 2007.
  • June 8, 1939 Herbert Allen Adderley, hall of fame football player, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In high school, Adderley played football, basketball, and baseball and was All-City in all three sports. He played college football at Michigan State University and was named to the 1960 All-Big Ten Conference team. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in education in 1961. Adderley was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1961 National Football League Draft and moved from an offensive running back to a defensive back. Over his 12 season professional career, he was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He is also one of only three players in professional football history to play on six world championship teams. After retiring in 1973, Adderley broadcast games and served as an assistant coach at Temple University. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. Adderley co-authored “Lombardi’s Left Side” in 2012.
  • June 8, 1943 William D. “Willie” Davenport, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Troy, Alabama. After graduating from high school, Davenport joined the United States Army and became a member of the track team. Davenport competed in four Summer Olympic Games, winning a Gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games and a Bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. He also competed in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games as a runner for the U.S. bobsleigh team. Davenport subsequently returned to military duty and rose to the rank of colonel in the Army National Guard. He coached the All-Army men’s and women’s track teams to an unprecedented four undefeated seasons between 1993 to 1996. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1982. Davenport died June 17, 2002.
  • June 8, 1962 William Stanley Braithwaite, poet, anthologist and educator, died. Braithwaite was born December 6, 1878 in Boston, Massachusetts. He apprenticed to a typesetter at a Boston publisher at 15 and discovered an affinity for lyric poetry and began to write poems. Over his career, he published three volumes of poetry, “Lyrics of Life and Love” (1904), “The House of Falling Leaves” (1908), and “Selected Poems” (1948). Between 1906 and 1931, Braithwaite also contributed book reviews, essays, and articles to numerous periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly magazine, The Crisis magazine, and the New York Times newspaper. Braithwaite was awarded the 1918 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. He was professor of creative writing at Atlanta University from 1935 to 1945.
  • June 8, 1972 James Andrew “Jimmy” Rushing, blues and jazz vocalist, died. Rushing was born August 26, 1901 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He taught himself violin and piano and studied music theory in high school and at Wilberforce University. Rushing performed with several bands before joining Count Basie’s Orchestra in 1935. He recorded, appeared in films, and gained fame as the featured vocalist with Basie over the next 15 years. After the Basie ensemble disbanded, Rushing began a solo career recording such albums as “Jimmy Rushing Sings the Blues” (1955), “Rushing Lullabies” (1960), “Every Day I Have the Blues” (1967), and “The You and Me That Used to Be” (1971) which was named Jazz Album of the Year by Down Beat magazine. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1994.
  • June 8, 1977 Kanye Omari West, rapper and record producer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia. West attended the American Academy of Art and Chicago State University but dropped out to focus on his music career. He first gained recognition for producing hit singles for artists such as Jay-Z, Common, Alicia Keys, and John Legend. West released his debut album, “The College Dropout,” in 2004 and it contained the singles “Through the Wire” and “Jesus Walks” and sold more than three million copies. His second album, “Late Registration,” was released in 2005 and earned eight Grammy Award nominations and also sold more than three million copies. His other albums are “Graduation” (2007), “808s & Heartbreak” (2008), and “Yeezus” (2013). West has been nominated for 53 Grammy Awards and won 21, including Best Rap Album in 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2012. Rolling Stone magazine included three of West’s albums, “The College Dropout,” “Late Registration,” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010), on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. West also runs his own record label, GOOD Music. He was voted 2010 MTV Man of the Year. West was included on Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2005, 2010, and 2015. He founded the Kanye West Foundation in Chicago, Illinois in 2003 to focus on helping Latino and African American children stay in school. He also has participated in many fundraisers and benefit concerts. West received an honorary doctorate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015.
  • June 8, 1982 Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, hall of fame baseball player, died. Paige was born July 7, 1906 in Mobile, Alabama. He was committed at 12 to the Industrial School for Negro Children where he developed his pitching skills. Paige was signed by the Chattanooga White Sox of the Negro leagues in 1926. In addition to the Negro leagues, Paige pitched in Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. He also pitched against many White major league stars during that time, including hall of famers Dizzy Dean, who called him “the pitcher with the greatest stuff I ever saw,” and Joe DiMaggio, who said that he was the best pitcher he had ever faced. During World War II, when many of the best major league players were in the service, Paige was the highest paid athlete in the world. In 1948, at 42, Paige became the oldest player ever to debut in the major leagues where he pitched until 1953. On September 25, 1965, at 59, Paige pitched three innings of shutout baseball against the Boston Red Sox. Paige finally quit pitching in 1967. Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971, the first player from the Negro leagues to be inducted. A made-for-television movie, “Don’t Look Back,” of his life was aired in 1981 and his biography, “The Life and Times of an American Legend,” was published in 2009. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2000. A statue of Paige was unveiled at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York commemorating the contributions of the Negro leagues to baseball July 28, 2006. Another biography, “If You Were Only White,” was published in 2012.
  • June 8, 2007 Nellie Lutcher, pianist, R&B and jazz singer and songwriter, died. Lutcher was born October 15, 1912 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She received piano lessons at a young age and played in her father’s family band. She played piano with Ma Rainey at 12 and joined the Imperial Jazz Band at 14. In 1935, Lutcher moved to Los Angeles, California and began to play swing piano and sing. Lutcher recorded a number of hit singles between 1947 and the early 1950s, including “Hurry On Down,” “He’s A Real Gone Guy,” “Fine Brown Frame,” and “I Want to Be Near You.” Lutcher was also a businesswoman who wrote many of her songs and retained the publishing rights to them. She also invested in real estate successfully. Albums by Lutcher include “Real Gone” (1955) and “Delightfully Yours” (1966). She received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1992. Lutcher was influenced many performers, including Nina Simone.
  • June 8, 2009 Albert-Bernard “Omar” Bongo, second President of the Gabonese Republic, died. Bongo was born December 30, 1935 in southeastern Gabon. He served in the Gabonese Air Force from 1958 to 1960. He began his political career after the nation gained its independence from France August 17, 1960. After being promoted to several key positions, Bongo was elevated to vice president in 1966 and succeeded Leon M’ba as president upon his death in 1967. After Cuban President Fidel Castro stepped down in February, 2008, Bongo became the world’s longest serving non-monarch ruler. Omar Bongo University in Libreville is named in his honor.
  • June 8, 2011 Clara Shepard Luper, schoolteacher and civil rights leader, died. Luper was born May 3, 1923 in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma but raised in Hoffman, Oklahoma. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and history from Langston University in 1944 and her Master of Arts degree in history education from the University of Oklahoma in 1951. She became the advisor for the Oklahoma City National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council in 1957 and led them in a successful sit-in at Katz drugstore in 1958. As a result, Katz corporate management desegregated its lunch counters in three states. From 1958 to 1964, Luper led campaigns to gain equal banking rights, employment opportunities, open housing, and voting rights. She was one of a few African American teachers hired in 1968 to teach at a previously segregated Oklahoma City high school as part of a court ordered desegregation plan. Luper authored “Behold the Walls,” an account of the campaign for civil rights in Oklahoma City, in 1979. The Clara Luper Corridor, a two mile streetscape connecting the Oklahoma State Capitol complex with the historically African American area of Northeast Oklahoma City, is named in her honor. Oklahoma City University annually awards the Clara Luper Scholarship to minority students from underserved high schools or households with lower income.
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