Today in Black History, 06/13/2015 | Thurgood Marshall - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/13/2015 | Thurgood Marshall

  • June 13, 1828 St. Francis Academy, the oldest continuously operated school for Black Catholic children in the United States, opened in Baltimore, Maryland under the name Baltimore School for Colored Girls. The founding mission was to teach children of color to read the bible. The school moved to its current location in 1870 where its main building has served as a convent, an orphanage, a dormitory, and a school for young women. By the turn of the 20th century, the school had been renamed St. Francis Academy. The campus was expanded in 2002 with a facility housing additional classrooms, new computer labs, a health suite, meeting rooms, and a gymnasium. Since its inception, the academy has addressed the societal forces disrupting the potential of children and their families.
  • June 13, 1911 Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, religious leader and civil rights activist, was born Albert Cleage in Indianapolis, Indiana but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Agyeman earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University in 1942 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Oberlin Graduate School of Theology in 1943. He was ordained in the Congregational Church that same year. After clashing with White Presbyterian leaders over racial issues, Agyeman formed the Central Congregational Church in 1953 with a commitment to minister to the downtrodden and offer programs for the poor. He launched the Black Christian National Movement in 1967 which called for Black churches to reinterpret Jesus’ teachings to suit the social, economic, and political needs of Black people. At the same time, he renamed Central Congregational the Shrine of the Black Madonna. Agyeman published “The Black Messiah” which detailed his vision of Jesus as a Black revolutionary leader in 1968. He published “Black Christian Nationalism” in 1972 and inaugurated the Black Christian Nationalist Movement as a separate denomination. The name of the denomination was later changed to the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church which continues the mission to uplift and liberate the Pan African world community through the teachings of Jesus, the Black Messiah. Agyeman died February 20, 2000.
  • June 13, 1937 Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate to Congress, was born in Washington, D. C. Norton earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Antioch College in 1960, her Master of Arts degree from Yale University in 1963, and her Bachelor of Laws degree from Yale University Law School in 1964. While in college, Norton was active in the Civil Rights Movement and an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She traveled to Mississippi for the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964. Holmes was a signer of the “Black Woman’s Manifesto,” a document of the Black feminist movement, in 1970. She was appointed the head of the New York City Human Rights Commission in the early 1970s and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first female chair of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1977. During her four years in that position, she released the EEOC’s first set of regulations outlining what constituted sexual harassment. Norton was also one of the founders of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first legal periodical to focus exclusively on women’s rights. Norton was elected Delegate to Congress from the District of Columbia in 1990 and has been re-elected eleven times. She serves on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Norton published her autobiography, “Fire in My Soul,” in 2004.
  • June 13, 1945 Levi Watkins, Jr., pioneering cardiac surgeon, was born in Parsons, Kansas but raised in Montgomery, Alabama. As a youngster, Watkins attended the churches of both Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr. and actively participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree, with honors, from Tennessee State University in 1966 and that same year became the first Black student to enroll at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Despite being the only Black medical student on campus for the next four years, he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1970. Watkins interned at John Hopkins Hospital and became the institutions first Black chief resident in cardiac surgery in 1978. That same year, he joined the faculty of John Hopkins University School of Medicine. He was named dean for postdoctoral programs and faculty development in 1991. Watkins introduced a revolutionary surgical procedure that has saved the lives of thousands of patients who suffer from arrhythmia February 4, 1980. He performed the first human implementation of the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator, a small electronic device which automatically detects irregular rhythms and shocks the heart back to life. Watkins also led an intensive drive to recruit more Black students to the medical profession. He received honorary doctorate degrees from several institutions, including Meharry Medical College in 1989 and Morgan State University in 1997. Watkins died April 11, 2015. The Levi Watkins, Jr. Faculty and Student Awards are given annually by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, the Levi Watkins Learning Center at Alabama State University is named in his honor, and the Levi Watkins Professorship of Cardiac Surgery has been established at John Hopkins.
  • June 13, 1950 Jesse Binga, real estate entrepreneur and banker, died. Binga was born April 10, 1865 in Detroit, Michigan. He had moved to Chicago, Illinois by 1893 and began buying run- down buildings, repairing, and renting them. Binga was wealthy enough to establish a private bank by 1908. He opened the Binga State Bank in 1921 with deposits of over $200,000. Within three years deposits had increased to more than $1.3 million and Binga was considered the wealthiest African American in Chicago. After Binga moved into a previously all-White neighborhood, his home was bombed five times in 1919 in an attempt to get him to leave the neighborhood. As a result of the Great Depression, the Binga State Bank closed in 1930 and Binga was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to prison in 1933. After his release, he spent the remainder of his life working as a handyman.
  • June 13, 1951 Robert Preston Young, Jr., Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, was born in Des Moines, Iowa but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Young earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, from Harvard College in 1974 and his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1977. Young joined the law firm of Dickinson Wright in 1978 and became a partner in 1982. He joined the American Automobile Association as general counsel in 1992. Young was appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1995. He was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1999 and was most recently reelected in 2010. Young is the only Black justice on the court and is the highest Black elected official serving the State of Michigan. He is also an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School. Young has received honorary doctorate degrees from Michigan State University and Central Michigan University.
  • June 13, 1954 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, economist and Finance Minister of Nigeria, was born in Ogwashi-Uku, Nigeria. Okonjo-Iweala earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1977 and her Ph.D. in regional economic development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981. She was first appointed finance minister in 2003 and led the successful effort to obtain an $18 billion debt write-off in 2005. Okonjo-Iweala resigned the position in 2006 and was appointed managing director of the World Bank in 2007. She was reappointed Finance Minister of Nigeria in 2011 with expanded responsibilities as coordinating minister for the economy, positions she holds today. Okonjo-Iweala is also a fellow at the Brookings Institute and serves on the board of the World Resources Institute. She was named 2006 Nigerian of the Year and has received honorary doctorate degrees from several institutions, including Brown University, Amherst College, and Yale University. She was included on Time magazine’s 2014 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World and Forbes magazine listed her number 44 on their 2014 list of The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.
  • June 13, 1955 Leah Ward Sears, the first African American female Chief Justice in the United States, was born in Heidelberg, Germany but raised in Savannah, Georgia. Sears earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University in 1976, her Juris Doctor degree from Emory University School of Law in 1980, and her Master of Laws degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1995. Sears was appointed to the City of Atlanta Traffic Court in 1985. She became a Superior Court judge in 1988, the first African American woman to hold that position. Sears was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1992, the first woman and youngest person to sit on that court. Sears became Chief Justice of the court in 2005 and served until 2009 when she retired. She is currently a partner in a national law firm.
  • June 13, 1972 Clyde McPhatter, hall of fame rhythm and blues singer, died. McPhatter was born November 15, 1932 in Durham, North Carolina. He performed with Billy Ward & the Dominoes from 1950 to 1953 and they recorded “Sixty Minute Man” (1951) and “Have Mercy Baby” (1952). McPhatter quit that group in 1953 and formed the Drifters who released a number of hits, including “Money Honey” (1953) and “Whatcha Gonna Do” (1955). The Original Drifters, including McPhatter, were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998 and “Money Honey” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.” McPhatter was drafted into the United States Army in 1954. After his tour of duty, he left the Drifters for a solo career. He had a series of hits, including “Treasure of Love” (1956), Long Lonely Nights” (1957), “A Lovers Question” (1958), and “Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You)” (1961). McPhatter was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1993.  
  • June 13, 1980 Walter Rodney, Guyanese historian and political activist, was assassinated by a bomb placed in his car. Rodney was born March 23, 1942 in Georgetown, Guyana. He graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1963 and earned his Ph. D. at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England in 1966. His dissertation focused on the slave trade on the Upper Guinea coast and was published in 1970 as “A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545 – 1800.” Rodney was a prominent Pan-Africanist and influential in the Black Power Movement in the Caribbean. When the government of Jamaica banned him from the country in 1968 because of his advocacy for the working poor, riots broke out causing millions of dollars in damages. Those riots are now known as the “Rodney Riots.” Rodney’s most influential book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” was published in 1972. Rodney returned to Guyana in 1974 and formed the Working People’s Alliance. An annual Walter Rodney Symposium is held at the Atlanta University Center each March 23. The Walter Rodney Foundation in East Point, Georgia is a non-profit organization working to advance education, health, and development by promoting human rights, social justice, and sustainable development from a Pan-African perspective.
  • June 13, 1982, Kenenisa Bekele, world record holding long distance runner, was born in Bekoji, Ethiopia. Bekele won both the 4,000 meter and 12,000 meter races at the International Association of Athletics Federation World Cross Country Championships each year from 2002 to 2006, a feat no other runner has accomplished once. At the 2004 Athens Summer Olympic Games, he won the Gold medal in the 10,000 meter race and the Silver medal in the 5,000 meter race. At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games he won Gold medals in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races. At the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, Bekele finished fourth in the 10,000 meter race. He holds the world records for both the 5,000 meter and 10,000 meter distances. Bekele was named International Athletic Foundation World Athlete of the Year and Track & Field News Athlete of the Year in 2004 and 2005. Many consider him to be one of the greatest distance runners of all time.
  • June 13, 2003 Lucile Harris Bluford, journalist and activist, died. Bluford was born July 1, 1911 in Salisbury, North Carolina but raised in Kansas City, Missouri. She earned her bachelor’s degree, with high honors, from the University of Kansas in 1932 and began her journalism career. She joined the Kansas City Call, an African American owned newspaper, as a reporter and eventually advanced to editor and publisher. Bluford applied for admittance to the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1939 and was accepted. However when school officials learned that she was Black, they rescinded the admission. Bluford filed the first of several lawsuits against the school and the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1941 because no equal program was offered at the Black school in the state. Despite the ruling, Bluford did not attend the school. She went on to become a leading voice in the Kansas City civil rights movement and helped make the Call one of the most important Black newspapers in the country. The University of Missouri awarded Bluford an Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism in 1984 and presented her an honorary doctorate degree in 1989. The Lucile H. Bluford branch of the Kansas City Public Library System is named in her honor.
  • June 13, 2004 Ralph Wiley, sports journalist and author, died. Wiley was born April 12, 1952 in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Knoxville College in 1975 and took a position at the Oakland Tribune where he coined the phrase “Billyball” to describe the managerial style of Billy Martin. He was hired by Sports Illustrated in 1982 and wrote 28 cover stories over nine years, mainly about boxing, football, and baseball. Wiley published several books, including “Serenity, A Boxing Memoir” (1989), “Why Black People Tend To Shout” (1991), and “What Black People Should Do Now: Dispatches From Near the Vanguard” (1993).
  • June 13, 2013 A statue of Medgar Wiley Evers was unveiled at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. 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. He was honorably discharged in 1945 as a sergeant. Evers earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Alcorn 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 the desegregation of 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 rundown by a car as he emerged from the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP office. Evers was finally assassinated June 12, 1963. Mourned nationally, Evers was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. He was posthumously awarded the 1963 NAACP Spingarn Medal. In 1964, Byron De La Beckwith was arrested and twice tried for Evers’ murder. In both trials, all-White juries deadlocked on his guilt. Finally in 1994, De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder. Medgar Evers College was established as part of the City University of New York in 1969. In 1983, a made-for-television movie, “For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story,” was aired on PBS. 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. “The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches” was published in 2005.
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