Today in Black History, 06/25/2015 | Remembering Michael Jackson - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/25/2015 | Remembering Michael Jackson

  • June 25, 1792 Thomas Peters, a “Founding Father” of Sierra Leone, died. Peters was born in 1738 in Nigeria. He was captured by slave traders at 22 and after being sold several times ended up in Wilmington, North Carolina. At the start of the American Revolution in 1776, he escaped and joined the Black Pioneers, a Black unit made up of formerly enslaved African Americans fighting for the British. The British had promised freedom in exchange for fighting for them. Peters rose to the rank of sergeant and was wounded in battle twice. After the war, Peters and the other loyalists were taken by the British to Nova Scotia, Canada where they stayed from 1783 to 1791. Peters traveled to London, England in 1791 to protest the broken promises of land by the British government. While there, he convinced the government to allow them to settle a new colony in Sierra Leone that was to become Freetown. Peters and about 1,100 other Black people arrived at St. George Bay Harbor in Sierra Leone in 1792. Peters died that same year and is considered by some to be the “George Washington of Freetown.” A street in Freetown was named in his honor in 2007 and a statue of him was unveiled in 2011. “From Slavery to Freetown: Black Loyalists After the American Revolutionary” was published in 2006.
  • June 25, 1850 William Henry Heard, clergyman and United States Ambassador to Liberia, was born enslaved in Elbert County, Georgia. As a child, Heard, his mother, and three siblings were sold twice. Heard educated himself by learning the bible from memory and paying a White schoolboy to teach him basic literacy. In time, he achieved a teaching qualification and attended the University of South Carolina until 1877 when all Black students were removed by state law. Heard joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1878 and quickly rose through the ranks until elected bishop in 1908. He was appointed Minister Resident and Consul General to Liberia by President Grover Cleveland in 1895, a position he held until 1898. While there, he served as superintendent of the Liberia Annual Conference of the A.M.E. Church and built the first A.M.E. church in Monrovia. He published “The Bright Side of African Life” in 1898. Heard died September 12, 1937. “From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church, An Autobiography” was published in 1969.
  • June 25, 1859 or 1863 Benjamin William Quarteyquaye Quartey-Papafio, the first African educated to practice medicine in the Gold Coast (now Kenya), was born in Accra, Gold Coast. Quartey-Papafio was educated at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone before earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Durham University in Britain in 1882. He earned his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from Edinburgh University in 1886 and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. After returning to the Gold Coast, he served as a medical officer with the Gold Coast Government Service from 1888 to 1905 while also in private practice. Quartey-Papafio was a member of the Accra Town Council from 1909 to 1912 and was an unofficial member of the legislative council from 1919 to his death September 14, 1924.
  • June 25, 1876 Isaiah Dorman, a formerly enslaved interpreter, was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Not much is known of Dorman’s early life although records suggest that he was born enslaved in the 1840s. In 1865, he was hired to carry the mail on a 360 mile roundtrip between Forts Rice and Wadsworth. It was reported that he did this on foot for about two years. He served as a guide and interpreter for a party of engineers making the Northern Pacific Railroad Survey in 1871. Dorman was hired by General George Armstrong Custer as an interpreter for his expedition to the Little Bighorn country in 1876. On this date, he accompanied a detachment into battle and was killed, the only Black man killed in the fight. His body was recovered after the fight and eventually interred in the Little Bighorn National Cemetery. The spot where Dorman was killed is commemorated with a marble marker.
  • June 25, 1895 Albert Irvin Cassell, architect and entrepreneur, was born in Towson, Maryland. Cassell entered Cornell University to study architecture in 1915 but his studies were interrupted by service in the United States Army during World War I from 1917 to 1919. After his discharge, he returned to Cornell and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1919. Cassell joined Howard University in 1920 and became the university’s architect and head of the architecture department in 1922. Over the next 16 years, he designed projects that shaped the physical growth of Howard. He produced the master plan for expansion of the campus in 1930 and led the creation of the College of Engineering and Architecture in 1934. While at Howard, he also designed buildings for other clients, including buildings at Virginia Union University, Morgan State College, Provident Hospital, and various Masonic Temples. Cassell died November 30, 1969. Two of his buildings in Washington, D. C. are on the National Register of Historic Places, Prince Hall Masonic Temple added September 15, 1983 and the Mayfair Mansions Apartments added November 1, 1989.
  • June 25, 1924 Levi Jenkins Coppin, missionary, editor and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, died. Coppin was born December 24, 1848 in Frederick Town, Maryland. His mother taught him to read and write. Coppin moved to Wilmington, Delaware at 17 and received his license to preach in 1876. He became editor of the A. M. E. Church Review in 1888 and held that position until 1896. Coppin became a bishop of the A. M. E. Church in 1900 and was assigned to Cape Town, South Africa in 1902 where he organized the Bethel Institute. He returned to the United States in 1912. His autobiography, “Unwritten History,” was published in 1919.
  • June 25, 1925 Clifton Chenier, hall of fame Zydeco performer and recording artist, was born in Opelousas, Louisiana. Chenier learned the basics of accordion playing from his father and later shifted to the larger and more flexible piano accordion. He began his recording career with the 1954 release of “Clifton’s Blues.” His first hit was “Ay ‘Tite Fille (Hey, Little Girl)” (1955). From the 1960s to about 1980, Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band toured throughout the world. He was known as King of Zydeco. He won the 1983 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for his album “I’m Here.” He was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984.  Chenier died December 12, 1987. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989 and his recording “Bogalusa Boogie” (1976) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance” in 2011. He was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. Chenier was the subject of the 1973 documentary “Hot Pepper.”
  • June 25, 1933 James H. Meredith, the first African American student at the University of Mississippi, was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Meredith enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after graduating from high school and served from 1951 to 1960. He then attended Jackson State College for two years before applying for admission to the University of Mississippi. After Meredith was denied admission twice, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that Meredith had to be admitted and he became the first Black student at the university October 1, 1962. This sparked riots on the campus which left two people dead. Meredith’s actions are considered a pivotal moment in the history of civil rights in the United States. Despite harassment from other students, Meredith earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science August 18, 1963. Meredith earned his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University in 1968. Meredith led “The March Against Fear” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in 1966. During the march, he was shot in an attempted assassination. Also that year, his memoir, “Three Years in Mississippi,” was published. Meredith is president of Meredith Institute, Inc., a non-profit focused on teaching African Americans the importance of language and how to read, write, and speak the English language. “The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss” (2009) traces the history of the University of Mississippi prior to Meredith’s arrival, the legal and political standoff over his admission, and the fatal riots that ensued. A statue of Meredith was unveiled October 1, 2006 on the campus of the University of Mississippi.
  • June 25, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) by signing Executive Order 8802 which stated “there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color or national origin.” Roosevelt strengthened the FEPC in 1943 with Executive Order 9346 which required that all government contracts have a non-discrimination clause.
  • June 25, 1942 Willis Reed, Jr., hall of fame basketball player, was born in Hico, Louisiana. Reed played college basketball at Grambling State College where he led them to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championship and three Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships. He was selected by the New York Knicks in the 1964 National Basketball Association Draft and played with them his entire professional career. Over his ten season professional career, Reed was the 1965 Rookie of the Year, a seven-time All-Star, and two-time NBA champion. In 1970, he became the only player in NBA history to be named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star game, regular season, and playoffs in the same year. Reed retired in 1974 and has held several coaching and management positions at the college and professional level, including vice president of basketball operations for the New Orleans Hornets from 2004 to 2007. Reed was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982 and was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1997. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
  • June 25, 1966 Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamuntombo, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Mutombo attended Georgetown University on a United States Agency for International Development scholarship and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics and diplomacy in 1991. He was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the 1991 National Basketball Association Draft and over his 18 season professional career established himself as one of the greatest shot blockers and defensive players of all time. Mutombo retired from professional basketball in 2009 as an eight-time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year. Multilingual, Mutombo speaks English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and five African languages. He started the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 1997 to improve living conditions in the Congo. He has donated $15 million toward the construction of the $29 million, 300-bed Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital which opened in February, 2007 on the outskirts of Kinshasa. For his humanitarian efforts, Mutombo received the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009. Also, he received the President’s Service Award in 1999, the United States’ highest honor for volunteer service. Mutombo is a spokesman for the international relief agency CARE and is the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations Development Program. The Mutombo Foundation and Georgetown University began an initiative in 2012 to provide care for visually impaired children from low-income families in Washington, D. C. He also serves on the board of the National Constitution Center. Mutombo has received honorary doctorate degrees from the State University of New York College at Cortland, Georgetown University, and Haverford College. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
  • June 25, 1975 The Republic of Mozambique gained independence from Portugal. Mozambique is located in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the North, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest. It is 309,496 square miles in area with a population of approximately 23 million. The capital and largest city is Maputo. Portuguese is the official and most widely spoken language. Approximately half the population are Christians and 28% are Muslims.
  • June 25, 2005 The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture opened in Baltimore, Maryland. The 82,000 square foot museum is dedicated to preserving history and retelling the stories of Maryland’s African American community.
  • June 25, 2011 James Oglethrope “J. O.” Patterson, Jr., Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, died. Patterson was born May 28, 1935 in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Fisk University in 1958, his Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University in 1963, and his Master of Religion degree from the Memphis Theological Seminary in 1985. After practicing law for a few years, Patterson became active in politics, serving one term in the Tennessee House of Representatives, two terms in the State Senate, and five terms on the Memphis City Council. He served as interim Mayor of Memphis for 20 days in 1982, the first African American to serve in that capacity. He also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, 1976, and 1980. Patterson was consecrated as Bishop of the Church of God in Christ in 1985. He also served as president of the J. O. Patterson Mortuary.
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