Today in Black History 06/20/2015 | 1943 Detroit Race Riot - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 06/20/2015 | 1943 Detroit Race Riot


  • June 20, 1803 Maria W. Stewart, orator, abolitionist and feminist, was born. Stewart was orphaned at five and deprived of an education until she was 20 when she began to attend Sabbath School. She published pamphlets entitled “Religion and the pure principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on which We Build” in 1831 and “The Meditation from the pen of Mrs. Maria Stewart” in 1832. She was the first Black woman to lecture on women’s rights, particularly the rights of Black women, religion, and social justice. Four of her speeches were published in the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator. During the Civil War, Stewart moved to Washington, D. C. where she established a school for children of families that had escaped slavery and later became matron of Freedman’s Hospital. Stewart died December 17, 1879. She is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church on her birthday. Her biography, “Maria W. Stewart, America’s First Black Woman Political Writer: Essays and Speeches” was published in 1987.

  • June 20, 1858 Charles Waddell Chesnutt, author and political activist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Chesnutt eventually became assistant principal at the normal school now known as Fayetteville State University. He passed the Ohio bar exam in 1887 and established a successful legal stenography business in Cleveland. His first short story, “The Goophered Grapevine,” was published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1887 and his first book, “The Conjure Woman,” was published in 1899. Other novels by Chesnutt include “The House Behind the Cedars” (1900) and “The Marrow of Tradition” (1901). His play “Mrs. Darcy’s Daughter” was produced in 1906. Chesnutt served on the general committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was one of the early 20th century’s most prominent activists and commentators. He protested and successfully shutdown showings in Ohio of the film “Birth of a Nation” in 1917. Chesnutt was awarded the 1928 NAACP Spingarn Medal. More than 50 years before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Chesnutt concluded one of his speeches, “Looking down the vista of time I see an epoch in our nation’s history, not in my time or yours, but in not the distant future, when there shall be in the United States but one people, molded by the same culture, swayed by the same patriotic ideals, holding their citizenship in such high esteem that for another to share it is of itself to entitle him to fraternal regard; when men will be esteemed and honored for their character and talents.” Chesnutt died November 15, 1932. The Library of America added a major collection of Chesnutt’s works to its important American author’s series in 2002 and the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2008. “Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Pioneer of the Color Line” was published in 1952.

  • June 20, 1890 Cumberland Willis “Cum” Posey, Jr., hall of fame Negro Baseball League player, manager and team owner, was born in Homestead, Pennsylvania. In his early years, basketball dominated Posey’s life. He was considered one of the top Black basketball players of his time. In 1910, Posey organized a group of steelworkers into the Homestead Grays baseball team, one of the most powerful franchises in Negro league history. Posey became manager of the team in 1916 and became owner in the early 1920s. His teams won nine consecutive pennants between 1937 and 1945. Posey wrote a column for the Pittsburgh Courier from 1931 to 1945 and was a member of the Homestead Board of Education from 1931 to his death March 28, 1946. Posey was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • June 20, 1894 Lloyd Augustus Hall, hall of fame chemist and inventor, was born in Elgin, Illinois but raised in Aurora, Illinois. Hall earned his Bachelor of Science degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from Northwestern University in 1916 and went on to do graduate work at the University of Chicago. After earning his master’s degree, he was hired over the telephone by Western Electric Company but when they found out that he was Black, they rescinded the hire. He then went to work as a chemist for the Department of Health in Chicago. During World War I, Hall served with the United States Ordinance Department as chief inspector of powder and explosives. In 1925, he joined Griffith Laboratories where he worked for 34 years and amassed 59 patents, primarily in the technologies of curing meat. He earned his Doctor of Science degree from Virginia State College in 1944. Hall was elected to the board of directors of the American Institute of Chemist in 1955, the first African American to serve in that capacity. After retiring from Griffith, Hall consulted for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and sat on the American Food for Peace Council from 1962 to 1964. Hall died January 2, 1971. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004.

  • June 20, 1920 Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, former President of the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO), was born in Portuguese East Africa (now The Republic of Mozambique). Mondlane earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology and sociology from Oberlin College in 1953 and later his Master of Arts and Ph. D. degrees in sociology from Northwestern University. After graduating, he became a United Nations official and later joined the Mozambican pro-independence movement. Mondlane was elected president of FRELIMO in 1962 and the organization began a guerilla war in 1964 to obtain Mozambique’s independence from Portugal. Mondlane was assassinated by a bomb planted in a book that was delivered to him February 3, 1969. Portugal handed over power to FRELIMO June 25, 1975 and Mozambique became an independent nation. That same year, the university in the capital of Maputo was renamed Eduardo Mondlane University. Mondlane completed “The Struggle for Mozambique,” which describes the colonial system in Mozambique and the struggle for independence, just before his death.

  • June 20, 1928 Eric Allen Dolphy, Jr., hall of fame jazz multi-instrumentalist, was born in Los Angeles, California. Dolphy started playing the clarinet at six and the saxophone and flute while in high school. He briefly attended Los Angeles City College and directed their orchestra. Dolphy enlisted in the United States Army in 1950 and later attended the U. S. Naval School of Music. He had his big break as a member of Chico Hamilton’s quintet. Dolphy mostly recorded as a sideman for groups led by such jazz greats as John Coltrane, Oliver Nelson, Ornette Coleman, and Ron Carter. Albums that he recorded as leader include “Outward Bound” (1960), “Far Cry” (1961), and “Out to Lunch!” (1964). His style of jazz and instrumental abilities influenced many jazz musicians, including Ron Carter, Freddie Hubbard, and Herbie Hancock. Dophy died June 29, 1964. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1964.

  • June 20, 1933 Lazy Lester, hall of fame blues vocalist, harmonica player and songwriter, was born Leslie Johnson in Torras, Louisiana. Lester began playing professionally as the harmonica player for Lightnin’ Slim. He began playing solo in 1956 and over the next ten years recorded approximately 15 records, including “Sugar Coated Love,” “If You Think I’ve Lost You,” and “The Same Thing Could Happen to You.” Lester quit the music business in 1966 and over the next two decades only played occasionally while working manual jobs. He returned to the music scene in the mid-1980s and has recorded a number of albums, including “Lazy Lester Rides Again” (1987), “I Hear You Knocking” (1994), “Blues Stop Knockin’” (2001), and “You Better Listen” (2011). Lester was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012. He continues to perform.
  • June 20, 1946 Andre Watts, classical pianist and professor, was born in Nuremberg, Germany but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Watts appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra at nine. He graduated from the Philadelphia Musical Academy in 1963 and that same year made his television debut in a nationally televised concert with the New York Philharmonic. Watts won the 1964 Grammy Award for Best New Classical Artist and made his European debut in 1966 with the London Symphony Orchestra. By 1969, he was on a full-scale concert tour, playing 150 concerts a year by the mid-1970s. His 1976 PBS Sunday telecast was the first solo recital presented on Live from Lincoln Center and the first full-length recital to be aired nationally in prime time. Watts continues to be one of the world’s most in demand pianist, performing on the most prestigious concert stages and with the most preeminent orchestras and conductors. He has held the Jack I. and Dora B. Hamlin Endowed Chair in Music at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University since 2004. Watts was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President Barack H. Obama February 13, 2012.

  • June 20, 1949 Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr., singer, songwriter and record producer, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. Richie went to Tuskegee Institute on a tennis scholarship and earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1974. He became a singer and saxophonist with The Commodores in 1968 and they became popular with albums such as “Natural High” (1978) and “Midnight Magic” (1979). Richie began to accept songwriting commissions from other artists in the late 1970s, including “Lady” for Kenny Rogers which hit number one in 1980. He began his solo career in 1982 with his self-titled debut album which included the number one hit “Truly” and sold more than 4 million copies. His follow up album, “Can’t Slow Down” (1983), sold more than 8 million copies and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Richie wrote and performed “Say You, Say Me” for the 1985 film “White Nights.” The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Also in 1985, he co-wrote with Michael Jackson the mega-hit “We Are the World.” He received the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Richie released “Tuskegee” in 2012 and it went to the top of the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and sold more than one million copies within five weeks of its release.  Richie has sold, solo or as a group member, more than 100 million records and has been nominated for 18 Grammy Awards and won four.

  • June 20, 1955 Everette “E.” Lynn Harris, author, was born in Flint, Michigan but raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. Harris earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1977. His first book, “Invisible Life,” was self-published in 1991. After that, Harris authored ten consecutive books to make the New York Times Best Seller list, including “And This Too Shall Pass” (1997), “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” (2000), “A Love of My Own” (2003), and “Basketball Jones” (2009). Harris died July 23, 2009. “Mama Dearest” (2009) and “In My Father’s House” (2010) were released posthumously. His personal memoir, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” was published in 2004.
  • June 20, 1960 The Republic of Senegal gained its independence from France. Senegal is located in West Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. Dakar is the capital and largest city. The country is approximately 76,000 square miles in size and has a population of approximately 12,900,000 people. Islam is practiced by 94% of the population. The official language is French.

  • June 20, 1960 The Republic of Mali gained its independence from France. Mali is located in West Africa and is bordered by Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast to the south, Guinea to the southwest, and Senegal and Mauritania to the west. It is approximately 478,800 square miles in size and the capital and largest city is Bamako. Mali has a population of approximately 14,500,000 people with 90% Muslim. The official language is French.

  • June 20, 1969 MaliVai “Mal” Washington, former professional tennis player, was born in Glen Cove, New York. Washington began playing tennis at five and competed in the United States Tennis Association National Junior Championships as a teenager. For two seasons, he played tennis for the University of Michigan and was the top ranked college player in the United States. He left school and turned professional in 1989. Washington won his first top-level singles title in 1992 and in 1996 became the first African American male to reach the Wimbledon finals since Arthur Ashe in 1975. Washington retired from the professional tour in 1999 with four tour singles titles. He now serves as a TV analyst and on-court interviewer. He is the founder of the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation in Jacksonville, Florida whose mission is “to develop champions in classrooms, on tennis courts and throughout communities.” He was awarded the 2009 Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year Award.

  • June 20, 1988 A commemorative statue of Ernest Davis was unveiled in front of Ernie Davis Middle School in Elmira, New York. Davis was born December 14, 1939 in New Salem, Pennsylvania but raised in Elmira. He attended Syracuse University where he was a running back from 1959 to 1961, winning first-team All-American honors in 1960 and 1961 and earning the nickname “the Elmira Express.” He became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player of the year November 28, 1961. Davis earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1962. He was selected number one in the 1962 National Football League Draft, the first African American to be selected number one, by the Washington Redskins and traded to the Cleveland Browns. Before playing a single game of professional football, Davis died May 18, 1963. More than 10,000 people filed past his coffin in a single day and President John F. Kennedy sent a condolence telegram. Despite never playing a game for them, the Browns retired his jersey number 45. Davis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and a film biography, “The Express” based on the book “Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express” (1999), was released in 2008. A statue of Davis was unveiled September 13, 2008 on the campus of Syracuse University.
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