Today in Black History, 06/11/15 | Remembering Ruby Dee - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/11/15 | Remembering Ruby Dee


  • June 11, 1850 Henry Johnson, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Boydton, Virginia. On October 5, 1879, Johnson was serving as a sergeant in Company D of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Milk River, Colorado during the Indian Wars when his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads, “Voluntarily left fortified shelter and under heavy fire at close range made the rounds of pits to instruct the guards and fought his way to the creek and back to bring water to the wounded”. In recognition of his heroic actions, Johnson was awarded the medal , America’s highest military decoration, September 22, 1890. Not much else is known of Johnson’s later life except that he died January 31, 1904 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • June 11, 1866 Addie Waites Hunton, educator and civil and women’s rights activist, was born in Norfolk, Virginia but raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Hunton graduated from Spencerian College of Commerce in 1899, the first Black female graduate of the institution. She served as national organizer for the National Association of Colored Women from 1906 to 1910. Hunton joined the Young Women’s Christian Association in 1907 as secretary responsible for working with Black people. In that capacity, she toured the South and Midwest recruiting a number of influential Black women to the YWCA. During World War I, Hunton was one of three African American women assigned by the United States Army to work with segregated Black soldiers stationed in France. She and one of the other women wrote about their experiences in the book “Two Colored Women with the American Expeditionary Forces” (1920). Hunton was also a leading suffragist, advocating for Black women voters at the 1921 National Woman’s Party convention. Hunton worked as a vice president and field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1921 to 1924 and helped organize the 1927 Pan-African Congress. In 1926, she wrote a report condemning the U. S. occupation of Haiti. She also published a biography of her late husband, “William Alphaeus Hunton: A Pioneer Prophet of Young Men”, in 1938. Hunton died June 21, 1943.
  • June 11, 1883 Charlotte Hawkins Brown, educator and civil rights activist, was born in Henderson, North Carolina but raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Brown accepted a teaching position at a one-room school in Sedalia, North Carolina in 1901. That school closed after one term and Brown founded Palmer Memorial Institute in 1902 and it evolved into an accredited junior college. As the school grew, Brown became nationally known as an educator, lecturer, civil rights activist, and author. She published “The Correct Thing To Do – To Say – To Wear” in 1941. She received honorary doctorate degrees from six institutions, including Lincoln University in 1937, Wilberforce University in 1939, and Howard University in 1944. Brown was also active in the National Council of Negro Women and was the first African American woman elected to the national board of the Young Women’s Christian Association. She retired as president of Palmer Memorial in 1952. Brown died January 11, 1961. The Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia “links Dr. Brown and Palmer Memorial Institute to the larger themes of African American history, women’s history, social history, and education, emphasizing the contributions African Americans made in North Carolina.”
  • June 11, 1894 Macon Bolling Allen, the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States and the first Black American Justice of the Peace, died. Allen was born Allen Macon Bolling August 4, 1816 in Indiana. He grew up a free man and learned to read and write on his own. He moved to Portland, Maine in the early 1840s. After passing the State of Maine bar exam and earning his recommendation, he was given his license to practice law July 3, 1844. However, because White people were unwilling to have a Black man represent them in court Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1845. He passed the Massachusetts bar exam that same year and he and Robert Morris, Jr. opened the first Black law office in the U.S. Allen passed another exam in 1848 to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County. After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina and was appointed Judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston in 1873. The next year, he was elected Judge Probate for Charleston County. Later, Allen moved to Washington, D. C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. Allen practiced law right up until his death.
  • June 11, 1920 Hazel Dorothy Scott, jazz and classical pianist and singer, was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago but raised in New York City. Scott performed extensively on the piano as a child and received further training at the Julliard School of Music. While still in high school, she hosted her own radio show. Scott starred at the opening of Barney Josephson’s Café Society Uptown in New York City in 1940 and soon her piano pyrotechnics were acclaimed throughout the United States and Europe. She was called the “darling of café society”. Scott made her Broadway debut in 1942 in “Sing Out the News”. She appeared in a number of films, including “I Dood It” (1943), “Broadway Rhythm” (1944), and “Rhapsody in Blue” (1945). She was also the first woman of color to have her own television show, “The Hazel Scott Show”, which premiered July 3, 1950. Due to racism and McCarthyism, the show was cancelled in September of that year when she was accused of being a Communist sympathizer. She was one of the first Black entertainers to refuse to play before segregated audiences. Albums released by Scott include “Hazel Scott’s Late Show” (1953) and “Relaxed Piano Mood” (1955). Scott died October 2, 1981. Her biography, “Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist, from Café Society to Hollywood to HUAC”, was published in 2008.
  • June 11, 1930 Charles Bernard Rangel, second longest serving member of the House of Representatives, was born in Harlem, New York. Rangel enlisted in the United States Army in 1948 and earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in 1950 for leading a group of soldiers out of a deadly Chinese Army encirclement during the Battle of Kunu-ri during the Korean War. After being honorably discharged in 1952, Rangel earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the New York University School of Commerce in 1957and his Juris Doctor degree from St. John’s University School of Law in 1960. He served two terms in the New York State Assembly before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970. His longtime concerns with battling the importation and effects of illegal drugs led to his becoming chair of the House Select Committee on Narcotics where he helped define national policy on the issue during the 1980s. He was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971 and served as chairman in 1974. Rangel became chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in 2007, the first African American to hold that position. He stepped down from the position in 2010 after being found to have violated House ethics rules. Rangel has received honorary doctorate degrees from a number of colleges and universities, including Hofstra University in 1989, Syracuse University in 2001, and Bard College in 2008.
  • June 11, 1930 Johnny D. Bright, hall of fame Canadian Football League player, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Bright played college football at Drake University where he led the nation in total offense in 1949 and 1950. On October 20, 1951 in a game against Oklahoma State University, Bright was violently assaulted by White football player Wilbanks Smith. During the first seven minutes of the game, Bright was knocked unconscious three times by blows from Smith. The final blow broke Bright’s jaw and he was eventually forced to leave the game. A six sequence photograph of the incident was captured by the Des Moines Register newspaper and it showed that the final blow was delivered well after Bright had handed the football off. That photographic sequence won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Photography and later made the cover of Life Magazine. After the game, Oklahoma State and conference officials refused to take any disciplinary action against Smith. Bright went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in education from Drake in 1952 and was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1952 National Football League Draft. However, because of concerns regarding the racial environment in the NFL, Bright elected to play for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Over his 13 season professional career, Bright led the league in rushing three times and was the 1959 Most Outstanding Player. He retired in 1964 as the CFL’s all-time leading rusher. After football, Bright worked as a teacher, coach, and school administrator until his death December 14, 1983. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1970 and posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1984. Oklahoma State University formally apologized to Drake University for the incident in 2005. The Johnny Bright School opened in Edmonton, Canada in 2010.
  • June 11, 1935 Earlene Brown, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Laredo, Texas. Brown began her athletic career in 1956 and that same year won the Amateur Athletic Union shot put championship. Brown was an eight-time national champion in the shot put and three-time national champion in the discus throw. At the 1960 Rome Summer Olympic Games, she won the Bronze medal in the shot put, the only American woman to ever win an Olympic medal in that event. Brown retired from track and field in 1964 and took up the sport of roller games. In that sport, she was known as “747” because of her size and weight. Despite that, she displayed amazing quickness and agility. She retired from the roller games in 1974. Brown died May 1, 1983. She was posthumously inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2005.
  • June 11, 1961 Frank X. Walker, poet and educator, was born in Danville, Kentucky. Walker earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Kentucky in 1996 and his Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Spaulding University in 2003. Walker has published six volumes of poetry, including “Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York” (2003), which won the Lillian Smith Book Award, “When Winter Come: the Ascension of York” (2008), and “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers” (2013). He was the 2005 recipient of a Lannan Literacy Fellowship in Poetry and the 2013/2014 Poet Laureate of Kentucky. Walker is currently professor of English at the University of Kentucky.
  • June 11, 1963 Alabama Governor George C. Wallace stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium on the campus of the University of Alabama attempting to block two Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from enrolling at the university. President John F. Kennedy called on the Alabama National Guard to forcibly allow the students to enter the building. Wallace denounced that but stepped aside, allowing Malone and Hood to enter for registration. The incident is seen as one of the seminal events in the Civil Rights Movement. The building was declared a National Historic Landmark April 5, 2005.
  • June 11, 2000 Earl Shinhoster, civil rights leader, died in a car accident. Shinhoster was born July 5, 1950 in Savannah, Georgia. He got involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Savannah branch youth council at a young age and was president of the council at 16. Shinhoster earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College in 1972 and later earned his Juris Doctor degree from Cleveland State University College of Law. After returning to Atlanta, he took a staff position with the NAACP where he worked for the next 25 years, including serving as interim director of the organization from 1994 to 1995. During his brief tenure, $1 million in debt was eliminated and membership increased from 600,000 to nearly a million. Shinhoster served as coordinator of voter education for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office from 1996 to 2000. There he developed a program to increase voter participation. The Earl T. Shinhoster Interchange, the Earl T. Shinhoster Bridge, and the Earl T. Shinhoster Post Office in Savannah are all named in his honor.
  • June 11, 2006 James Cameron, civil rights activist and author, died. Cameron was born February 23, 1914 in La Crosse, Wisconsin but raised in Marion, Indiana. As a teenager, he ran with a gang of other youth that robbed stores and individuals. On August 7, 1930, he was with two other young Black men who allegedly robbed and killed a White man and raped the White woman who was with him. Cameron and the two men were arrested and charged with murder and rape during an armed robbery attempt. A mob broke into the jail and lynched the other two men. Cameron was spared from lynching but served four years as an accomplice to the crime. After being paroled, he became a civil rights activist, including founding and serving as the first president of the Madison County, Indiana chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Cameron served as the Indiana State Director of Civil Liberties from 1942 to 1950. He founded America’s Black Holocaust Museum in 1988 to document the struggles of African Americans from slavery, through lynchings, and civil rights. Cameron published his autobiography, “A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story”, in 1982.
  • June 11, 2012 Teofilo Stevenson Lawrence, three-time Olympic Gold medal winning boxer, died. Stevenson was born March 29, 1952 in Las Tunas Province, Cuba. He began boxing as a teenager and was recognized as Cuba’s premier heavyweight by 1970. He won the heavyweight boxing Gold medal at the 1972 Munich, the 1976 Montreal, and the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympic Games. Stevenson did not have an opportunity to compete in the 1984 or 1988 games because of the Cuban boycott of those games. He retired from boxing in 1988 with a record of 301 wins and 20 losses. Stevenson was supposedly offered $5 million to fight Muhammad Ali in the mid-1970s. He turned the offer down, stating “What is one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?”. After retiring, he served as president of the Cuban boxing federation and the Cuban national sports institute.
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