Today in Black History, 06/12/2015 | Straight University - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/12/2015 | Straight University

  • June 12, 1868 King Solomon White, hall of fame Negro Baseball League player, manager, executive and author, was born in Bellaire, Ohio. White joined the Pittsburgh Keystones of the National Colored Baseball League in 1887, starting a playing career that lasted until 1912. He made a name for himself in the predominantly White minor leagues before Black men were excluded from playing. White was instrumental in the 1902 formation of the Philadelphia Giants and the later development and operation of various leagues. His book “Sol White’s History of Colored Baseball” was published in 1907, the first definitive history of Black baseball. White spent most of his remaining years as a journalist for African American newspapers. White died August 26, 1955. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • June 12, 1904 William Hendrick “Bill” Foster, hall of fame Negro Baseball League player, was born in Calvert, Texas. Foster pitched for several teams in the Negro league from 1923 to 1936 and had a career record of 132 wins and 62 losses. He won six of seven games pitched against White major league players. After pitching a shutout against a team of major league all-stars in 1929, Charles Gehringer told Foster, “If I could paint you white I could get $150,000 for you right now.” During the off-season, Foster continued his education and earned a bachelor’s degree from Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University). He was the baseball coach and dean of men at Alcorn from 1960 to 1977. Foster died September 16, 1978. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.
  • June 12, 1912 Nina Mae McKinney, film and stage actress, was born in Lancaster, South Carolina but raised in New York City. McKinney made her stage debut dancing in a chorus line in the musical “Blackbirds of 1928.” She starred in the 1929 all-Black musical “Hallelujah.” On the strength of that performance, she was signed to a five year contract by MGM Studio. Unfortunately, McKinney was a leading lady in an industry that had no leading roles for Black women. As a result, she only appeared in two films, “Safe in Hell” (1931) and “Reckless” (1935), for the studio. After her contract expired, she did appear in a number of all-Black films, including “Sanders of the River” (1935), “Dark Waters” (1944), and “Pinky” (1949). During the 1950s to mid-1960s, McKinney toured Europe where she was well received and known as “The Black Garbo” and “Queen of Night Life.” She spent her final years in relative obscurity in New York City. McKinney died May 3, 1967.
  • June 12, 1930 Barbara Clementine Harris, the world’s first female Anglican bishop, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harris was a corporate public relations executive and active in the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements before studying for the ministry in 1974. She was ordained a deacon in 1979 and a priest in 1980. She served as a parish pastor and prison chaplain in Pennsylvania from 1980 to 1984 and then headed the Episcopal Church Publishing Company and The Witness magazine. Despite much opposition, Harris was consecrated Bishop Suffragan for the Diocese of Massachusetts February 11, 1989, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion. Harris retired in 2002 and served part-time on the staff of the Diocese of Washington, D. C. from 2003 to 2007. The Barbara C. Harris Camp & Conference Center in Greenfield, New Hampshire is named in her honor. “Miter Fits Just Fine: A Story about the Rt. Rev. Barbara Clementine Harris: The First Woman Bishop in the Anglican Communion” was published in 2003.
  • June 12, 1932 Degaga “Mamo” Wolde, long distance track and road runner, was born in Diri Jille, Ethiopia. Wolde joined the Imperial Bodyguard in 1951 and later served as a peacekeeper in Korea from 1953 to 1955. He competed at four Olympic Games, winning the Gold medal in the marathon and the Silver medal in the 10,000 meter race at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympic Games and the Bronze medal in the marathon at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Games. Wolde was arrested in Ethiopia in 1993 and spent nine years in detention waiting for his trial. He was released in early 2002 but died May 26, 2002.
  • June 12, 1963 Medgar Wiley Evers, civil rights activist, was assassinated. Evers was born July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He was inducted into the United States Army in 1943 and fought in France during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1945 as a sergeant. Evers earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) in 1952. Soon after, he moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi and became involved with the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. Evers was appointed Mississippi’s first field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1954. He was involved in a boycott campaign against White merchants and was instrumental in desegregating the University of Mississippi. A couple of weeks before his death, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home and five days before his death he was nearly run down by a car as he emerged from the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP office. Mourned nationally, Evers was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Evers was posthumously awarded the 1963 NAACP Spingarn Medal. Byron De La Beckwith was arrested in 1964 and twice tried for Evers’ murder. In both trials, all-White juries deadlocked on his guilt. Finally, De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder in 1994. Medgar Evers College was established as part of the City University of New York in 1969. A made-for-television movie, “For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story,” was aired on PBS in 1983. The City of Jackson erected a statue in honor of Evers in 1992 and they changed the name of their airport to Jackson-Evers International Airport in 2004. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2009. The USNS Medgar Evers supply ship was launched by the United States Navy October 29, 2011. Another statue of Evers was unveiled at Alcorn in Lorman, Mississippi June 13, 2013. “The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches” was published in 2005.
  • June 12, 1964 Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was sentenced to life in prison by the South African government for four counts of sabotage and crimes equivalent to treason. Mandela admitted to the sabotage charges and in his closing statement declared, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Mandela was born July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. He enrolled at Fort Hare University but was expelled because of his involvement in a Students’ Representative Council boycott against university policies. He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and earned his law degree at the University of South Africa in 1942. Mandela became active in politics after 1948, playing a prominent role in the African National Congress’ 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He became leader of the ANC’s armed wing in 1961 and coordinated sabotage campaigns against military and government targets. With the help of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, the South African government arrested Mandela in 1962 and he spent the next 27 years in prison. Following his release from prison in 1990, Mandela returned to the leadership of the ANC and between 1990 and 1994 led the party’s negotiations with the government for multi-racial elections. Mandela was elected President of South Africa in the country’s first multi-racial election in 1994. He served as president until 1999 when he retired. Mandela died December 5, 2013.
  •  June 12, 1965 Gwendolyn Lenna Torrence, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Decatur, Georgia. Torrence attended the University of Georgia where she was a twelve-time All-American and four-time National Collegiate Athletic Association champion. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in 1987. At the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games, Torrence won Gold medals in the 200 meter race and the 4 by 100 meter relay and the Silver medal in the 4 by 400 meter relay. At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, she won the Gold medal in the 4 by 100 meter relay and the Bronze medal in the 100 meter race. Torrence was also the United States champion in the indoor 60 meter race five times and 200 meter champion twice. Torrence was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2002. Today, Torrence owns a hair salon in Lithonia, Georgia.
  • June 12, 1967 The United States Supreme Court in the case of Loving v. Virginia ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statue, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, was unconstitutional. This ruling ended all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. The Racial Integrity Act was a state law that banned marriage between any White person and any non-White person. The story of the Lovings was turned into two films, “Mr. & Mrs. Loving” in 1996 and “The Loving Story” in 2012.
  • June 12, 1983 Joseph Benjamin “J. B.” Hutto, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. Hutto was born April 26, 1926 in Blackville, South Carolina but raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in the early 1950s and formed a band called The Hawks. They played in clubs around Chicago and recorded six singles in 1954. Shortly afterwards, Hutto became disenchanted with the music business and did not perform professionally again until 1964. After returning, he recorded several albums, including “Master of Modern Blues” (1966), “Hawk Squat!” (1968), “Sidewinder” (1973), and “Slippin’ & Slidin’” (1983). Hutto was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1985.
  • June 12, 1998 Charles “Teenie” Harris, photographer, died. Harris was born July 2, 1908 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He began his photography career in the early 1930s and joined the Pittsburgh Courier as staff photographer in 1936. Harris worked for the Courier until 1975 and during that time took thousands of images capturing celebrities and chronicling decades of Black life in Pittsburgh. He photographed celebrities like Lena Horne, Martin Luther King, Jr., Satchel Paige, and Muhammad Ali but also featured Black cab drivers, musicians, policemen, and thousands of others. As the result of the Pittsburgh Courier’s bankruptcy in 1965, Harris lost his pension and he sold control of his negatives for $3,000. He won back control of the negatives after a 1998 trial and the rights were sold to the Carnegie Museum of Art for an undisclosed sum. The museum mounted an exhibition of almost one thousand of his photographs in 2012.
  • June 12, 2014 Jimmy Scott, R&B and Jazz vocalist, died. Scott was born July 17, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio with a genetic condition that stunted his growth. He got his first singing experience in the church choir. He rose to national prominence in the late 1940s as “Little Jimmy Scott” in the Lionel Hampton Band singing the lead on “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool.” Scott recorded what is considered by many to be one of the great jazz vocal albums of all time, “Falling in Love is Wonderful,” in 1963. However due to contract problems, the album was not released until 2003. The same thing occurred with his 1969 album, “The Source,” which was released in 2001. After that, Scott quit the music business and worked at a hospital and hotel in Cleveland. He began a comeback with the release of “All The Way” in 1992. This was followed by “Dream” (1994), “Heaven” (1996), “Holding Back the Years” (1998), “Moonglow” (2003), and “All of Me: Live in Tokyo” (2004). Scott performed at the inauguration ceremonies of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 and William J. Clinton in 1993. He received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1989 and was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor that the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007. His biography, “Faith in Time: The Life of Jimmy Scott,” was published in 2002.
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