Today in Black History, 06/27/2015 | Crystal Bird Fauset - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/27/2015 | Crystal Bird Fauset

  • June 27, 1766 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, was born enslaved in Haiti. His owners brought him to New York City in 1787 and Toussaint became an apprentice to one of the city’s leading hairdressers. He was freed from enslavement when his owner died in 1807 and he went on to become quite wealthy as a hairdresser. As a result, Toussaint was able to purchase the freedom of the woman that would become his wife. They opened their home as a shelter for orphans, a credit bureau, an employment agency, and refuge for priests and poverty stricken travelers. They also funded the construction of a new Roman Catholic Church. Toussaint died June 30, 1853. The Archbishop of New York had Toussaint’s body exhumed in 1990 and reinterred in the crypt below the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, the first layman to be buried in the crypt. Toussaint was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in 1996, the second step toward sainthood. A biography, “Memoir of Pierre Toussaint, Born a Slave in St. Domingo,” was published in 1854. Pierre Toussaint Academy in Detroit, Michigan, the Pierre Toussaint Family Health Care Center in Brooklyn, New York, and The Pierre Toussaint Haitian-Catholic Center in Miami, Florida are named in his honor.

  • June 27, 1872 Paul Laurence Dunbar, poet, was born in Dayton, Ohio. Dunbar served as editor of the school newspaper, class president, and president of the school literary society at his all-White high school. His first book of poetry, “Oak and Ivy,” was published in 1892 and his second book, “Majors and Minors” (1895), brought him national fame. During his lifetime, Dunbar wrote 12 books of poetry, 4 books of short stories, five novels, and a play. He also wrote the lyrics for “In Dahomey” which in 1903 was the first musical written and performed entirely by African Americans. Dunbar died February 9, 1906. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1975. A number of places are named in his honor, including schools and libraries in various cities and Dunbar Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Several biographies have been published about Dunbar, including “Paul Lawrence Dunbar: Poet of His People” (1936) and “Oak and Ivy: A Biography of Paul Lawrence Dunbar” (1971).

  • June 27, 1894 Crystal Bird Fauset, the first African American female state legislator in the United States, was born in Princess Anne, Maryland but raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Fauset worked as field secretary for African American girls at the Young Women’s Christian Association from 1918 to 1926. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Teacher’s College, Columbia University in 1931. Also that year, she founded the Colored Women’s Activities Club for the Democratic National Committee and as a result was appointed director of the Women and Professional Project in the Works Progress Administration. She also served on the Federal Housing Advisory Board in 1935. Fauset was elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature in 1938, the first African American female legislator in the country. During her time in the legislature, she focused on improvements in public health, housing the poor, public relief, and women’s rights in the workplace. Fauset resigned from the Pennsylvania legislature in 1940. She was appointed race relations director at the Office of Civil Defense in 1941 and became a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Black cabinet.” After World War II, Fauset helped found the United Nations Council of Philadelphia which later became the World Affairs Council. She traveled to Africa, India, and the Middle East to support independence leaders during the 1950s. Fauset died March 27, 1965. A Pennsylvania state historical marker was dedicated in her honor in Philadelphia in 1991.

  • June 27, 1907 Lorenzo Tucker, film and stage actor known as the “Black Valentino,” was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tucker started acting while attending Temple University. He appeared in 18 films by Oscar Micheaux, including “When Men Betray” (1928), “Veiled Aristocrats” (1932), and “Underworld” (1937). Tucker was known as the “Black Valentino” because of his good looks and the romantic roles he played on screen. Tucker also appeared on Broadway in such plays as “The Constant Sinner” (1931) and “Ol’ Man Satan” (1932). During World War II, he served in the United States Army Air Corps as a tail gunner. Tucker later became an autopsy technician for the New York City medical examiner. He was inducted into the Black Film Makers Hall of Fame in 1974 and received the Audelco Recognition Award in 1981. Tucker died August 19, 1986. “The Black Valentino: The Stage and Screen Career of Lorenzo Tucker” was published in 1988.

  • June 27, 1917 Wilson Camanza Riles, the first African American to be elected to statewide office in California, was born near Alexandria, Louisiana. Riles earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Arizona State Teacher’s College (now Northern Arizona State University) in 1940 and served in the United States Army Air Force for three years during World War II. After his discharge, Riles returned to Arizona State and earned his Master of Arts degree in school administration in 1947. Riles was elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1971, the first African American elected to statewide office in California. He was re-elected twice, serving a total of twelve years. he was awarded the 1973 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. After leaving public office, Riles started an educational consulting and management service company. He also founded the Wilson Riles Archives and Institute for Education in Sacramento, California. Riles died April 1, 1999. The Wilson C. Riles Middle School in Roseville, California is named in his honor.

  • June 27, 1936 Lucille Clifton, poet and educator, was born Thelma Lucille Sayles in Depew, New York. Clifton earned her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York in 1955 and over the next 15 years worked for the New York State Division of Employment and the federal Office of Education. Her poetry was included in Langston Hughes’ 1966 anthology “The Poetry Of The Negro.” Clifton’s first poetry collection, “Good Times,” was published in 1969 and listed by the New York Times newspaper as one of the year’s 10 best books. Her children’s book, “Everett Anderson’s Good-bye,” won the 1984 Coretta Scott King Award and she became the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Her volume “Blessing the Boats: New and Collected Poems 1988 – 2000” won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2000. Clifton was poet-in-residence at Coppin State College from 1971 to 1974 and Poet Laureate of the State of Maryland from 1979 to 1985. She was a professor of literature and creative writing at the University of California from 1985 to 1989 and was visiting professor at Columbia University from 1995 to 1999. She won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which honors a living United States poet whose “lifetime accomplishments warrant extraordinary recognition,” in 2007. Clifton died February 13, 2010. She posthumously received the Robert Frost Medal for lifetime achievement from the Poetry Society of America that same year. Studies about her life and writings include “Wild Blessings: The Poetry of Lucille Clifton” (2004) and “Lucille Clifton: Her Life and Letters” (2006).

  • June 27, 1937 George Raveling, hall of fame college basketball coach, was born in Washington, D. C. Raveling played college basketball at Villanova University where he was an All-American and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in economics in 1960. He served as an assistant coach at Villanova and the University of Maryland before becoming the head basketball coach at Washington State University in 1972. He coached at Washington State until 1983 and had a record of 167 wins and 136 losses. Raveling then served as head basketball coach at the University of Iowa from 1983 to 1986, with a record of 55 wins and 38 losses, and the University of Southern California from 1986 to 1994, with a record of 115 wins and 118 losses. He was selected 1992 Kodak Coach of the Year. Raveling was forced to quit coaching in 1994 due to a car accident. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013. He received the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 and was inducted into the hall in 2015. While serving as a volunteer security guard at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Raveling received the original copy of the “I Have a Dream” speech from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He still has custody of the speech. Raveling is the director for international basketball at Nike, Inc.
  • June 27, 1939 Frederick McKinley Jones of Minneapolis, Minnesota received patent number 2,163,754 for his invention of a ticket dispensing machine. His machine was designed to be operated by a relatively unskilled person and was made in such a way that jamming was practically impossible. However should jamming occur, the machine would continue to operate. Jones was born May 17, 1893 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jones moved to Hallock, Minnesota in 1912 and after serving in the United States Army during World War I, taught himself electronics and built a transmitter for the town’s radio station. Around 1935, Jones designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food and received patent number 2,475,841 for it July 12, 1949. His air coolers made it possible to ship perishable food long distances during any time of the year. His units were also important during World War II, preserving blood, medicine, and food. During his lifetime, Jones was awarded 61 patents, mostly for refrigeration equipment but also for portable X-ray machines, sound equipment, and gasoline engines. He became the first African American to be elected into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers in 1944. Jones died February 21, 1961. He was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Technology by President George H. W. Bush September 16, 1991, the first African American to receive the award. A children’s book, “I’ve Got an Idea: The Story of Frederick McKinley Jones,” was published in 1994.

  • June 27, 1954 Ronald Kirk, the first African American Mayor of Dallas, was born in Austin, Texas. Kirk was a leader in high school and was elected student council president in his senior year. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and sociology from Austin College in 1976 and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1979. Kirk served as Secretary of State of Texas in 1994 and the following year was elected Mayor of Dallas. He was re-elected in 1999 but resigned in 2001 to make an unsuccessful bid for the United States Senate. Kirk was confirmed as the United States Trade Representative in 2009, the first person of African descent to hold that position. He stepped down from the position in 2013. He currently serves as senior counsel at a private law firm and co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition.

  • June 27, 1977 The Republic of Djibouti gained independence from France. Djibouti is located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and south, and the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to the east. The country is a little less than 9,000 square miles in area with a population of approximately 900,000. The capital and largest city is Djibouti City. Arabic and French are the official languages. Approximately 94% of the population is Muslim and the remaining 6% Christian.

  • June 27, 1996 Merze Tate, hall of fame educator and author, died. Tate was born February 6, 1905 in Blanchard, Michigan. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Western State Normal School (now Western Michigan University) in 1927, the first African American to earn a degree from the school, and was elected to Phi Gamma Mu, the national social science honor society. She was not allowed to teach in Michigan secondary schools due to her race, therefore she took a teaching position in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tate earned her Master of Arts degree from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1930 and won a scholarship to Oxford University where she earned a Bachelor of Literature degree in 1935, the first African American to earn a degree from the institution. She earned her Ph. D. in political science from Radcliffe College (now part of Harvard University) in 1941, the first African American female to earn that degree. Tate had a distinguished academic career, teaching history and political science at Barber Scotia College, Bennett College, Morgan State College, Harvard University, and Howard University. She was one of three Americans representing the United States at a meeting of the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1948 and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach in India in 1950. Tate published five books on international affairs, including “The United States and Armaments” (1948) and “Hawaii: Reciprocity or Annexation” (1968). She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990. The Tate Grant and Education Center at Western Michigan, the Merze Tate Graduate Fellowship at Radcliffe, and the Merze Tate Seminar in Diplomatic History at Howard are all named in her honor.  

  • June 27, 1999 Marion Motley, hall of fame football player, died. Motley was born June 5, 1920 in Leesburg, Georgia but raised in Canton, Ohio. After playing college football at South Carolina University and the University of Nevada, Motley joined the United States Navy and played for the Great Lakes Naval Training Station team. He started his professional career in 1946 with the Cleveland Browns in the All-American Football Conference. Led by Motley, Cleveland won every championship in the four year existence of the AAFC. When the AAFC shutdown in 1949, he was the league’s career rushing leader. The Browns joined the National Football League in 1950 and Motley led the league in rushing that year. He retired in 1954 and wanted to coach, however due to his race he was not able to do that. Motley was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968, the second African American to be inducted, and many people refer to him as “The Jackie Robinson of football.”

  • June 27, 2012 John W. Porter, the first Black state school superintendent in the United States since reconstruction, died. Porter was born August 13, 1931 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Albion College in 1953 and his Master of Arts degree in counseling and guidance in 1957 and his Ph. D. in higher education in 1962 from Michigan State University. Porter worked as a teacher before becoming the first Black professional employee of the Michigan Department of Education. Porter was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1969, the youngest and first Black chief state school officer in the nation. He served in that capacity until 1979 when he was appointed president of Eastern Michigan University. Porter retired from EMU in 1989 and for two years served as interim superintendent of the Detroit Public School System. During his tenure, he executed a plan that eliminated a $160 million deficit and significantly reduced spending. The John W. Porter College of Education Building and the John W. Porter Distinguished Chair in Urban Education at Eastern Michigan University are named in his honor.

  • June 27, 2014 Robert Dwayne “Bobby” Womack, hall of fame singer, songwriter and musician, died. Womack was born March 4, 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio. As a youngster, Womack and his four brothers formed a gospel group called the Womack Brothers and began touring the gospel circuit. They were renamed The Valentinos in 1962 and began to sing secular music. They had hits with “Looking For a Love” (1962) and “It’s All Over Now” (1964), which was written by Womack. Womack’s solo career began in 1968 and he had his first hit in 1971 with “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha.” That was followed by such hits as “A Woman Gotta Have It” (1972), “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out” (1973), “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” (1982), and “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So” (1985). As a songwriter, Womack wrote The Rolling Stones’ first United Kingdom number one hit, “It’s All Over Now” and New Birth’s “I Can Understand It,” among other songs. Womack received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1996 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. He released “The Bravest Man in the Universe” in 2012. 


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