Today in Black History, 06/29/2015 | The Republic of Seychelles - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/29/2015 | The Republic of Seychelles

  • June 29, 1867 Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, singer, educator and political activist, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Hackley learned to play the piano at three and later took private voice, violin, and French lessons. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Denver University in 1900. Hackley was active in Denver’s civic and social life. She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of the local branch. She also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and encouraged patriotism amongst African Americans. Hackley moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1905 and became the director of music at the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion. She also helped organize the People’s Chorus which later became the Hackley Choral Society. Hackley spent much of her life training other singers, including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, and R. Nathanial Dett. She published her own collection of music, “Colored Girl Beautiful,” in 1916. Hackley died December 13, 1922. Twenty years later, the National Association of Negro Musicians established the E. Azalia Hackley Memorial Collection of Negro Music, Drama and Dance at the Detroit Public Library. Her biography, “Azalia: The Life of Madame E. Azalia Hackley,” was published in 1947. Hackley’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

  • June 29, 1886 James Van Der Zee, Harlem Renaissance photographer, was born in Lenox, Massachusetts. As a child, Van Der Zee learned piano, violin, and art. He received his first camera from a magazine promotion at 14. After moving to New York City, Van Der Zee worked as a darkroom technician at a department store. He opened his own studio, Guarantee Photography, in 1917 and was immediately successful. He outgrew his first studio and opened the larger GGG Studio in 1932. During the Great Depression, when demand for professional photographs was reduced, Van Der Zee supported himself by shooting passport photographs and other photographic jobs. Van Der Zee photographed many famous individuals, including Marcus Garvey, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Countee Cullen. His work was featured in the 1969 “Harlem on my Mind” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His complete collection totaled 75,000 photographs. Van Der Zee received the Living Legacy Award from President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and an honorary doctorate degree from Howard University in 1983. Van Der Zee died May 15, 1983. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2002. Biographies of him include “The World of James VanDerZee” (1969) and “James VanDerZee” (1973).  Van Der Zee’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
     
  • June 29, 1919 Lloyd George Richards, hall of fame theater actor, director and educator, was born in Toronto, Canada, but raised in Detroit, Michigan. Richards earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University in 1944 and then became one of the first Black military pilots while serving in the United States Air Force during World War II. After the war, he moved to New York City and supported himself by acting in plays and serving as an acting coach. Richards directed the original production of “A Raisin in the Sun” in 1959 and earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Play. He was named director of the prestigious playwrights’ conference at the O’Neill Theater in 1966 and under his leadership the conference became a model for several theater and film workshops, including the Sundance Institute. Richards was named dean of the Yale School of Drama and the Yale Repertory Theater in 1979, a position he held until his retirement in 1991. He also earned his Master of Fine Arts degree at Yale in 1980. A number of famous plays made their debut performances at the theater under the direction of Richards, including “Master Harold’ …… And the Boys,” “Fences,” and “The Piano Lesson.” Richards received numerous awards, including the 1987 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for “Fences,” the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, from President William J. Clinton October 7, 1993, and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which is “awarded to a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life,” in 2002. He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1990. Richards died June 29, 2006.
     
  • June 29, 1925 Hale Smith, composer, pianist, educator and arranger, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Smith began studying the piano at seven and by high school was playing jazz piano and composing. Following two years of military service, he earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 1950 and his Master of Music degree in 1952 from the Cleveland Institute of Music. His opera “Blood Wedding” premiered in 1953. Smith taught at C. W. Post College from 1958 to 1970 and at the University of Connecticut from 1970 to 1984. He influenced many musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Abby Lincoln, and Jessye Norman. His honors include the first composition prize of BMI Student Composer Awards in 1952, the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1973, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1988. Smith died November 24, 2009.
     
  • June 29, 1926 Julius Wesley Becton, Jr., the first African American to command a Corps in the United States Army, was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. After graduating from high school, Becton joined the U. S. Army in 1944. He graduated from infantry Officer Candidate School in 1945 and was commissioned a second lieutenant and served in the Philippines. Becton left the army in 1946 but returned in 1948 after the U. S. Armed Forces were integrated. He saw active duty in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant general and commander of VII Corps in Europe. While in the service, Becton earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Prairie View A & M University in 1960 and his Master of Arts degree in economics from the University of Maryland in 1966. He retired from the army in 1983. Becton served as director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in the U. S. Agency for International Development from 1984 to 1985 and director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1985 to 1989. He served as president of Prairie View from 1989 to 1994 and superintendent of the Washington, D. C. Public School System from 1996 to 1998. He published his autobiography, “Becton: Autobiography of a Soldier and Public Servant,” in 2008.
     
  • June 29, 1941 Stokely Carmichael, political activist and one of the first users of the term “Black Power,” was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Carmichael earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Howard University in 1964. While at Howard, he became involved with the Nonviolent Action Group, a campus based civil rights group that was affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Working as a SNCC activist in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1965, Carmichael helped to increase the number of registered Black voters from 70 to 2,600. He became chairman of SNCC in 1966 and under his leadership the organization became more radical and focused on Black Power as its core goal and ideology. Carmichael stepped down as chairman of SNCC in 1967 and that same year published his book, “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation.” During this period, he also lectured around the world, including North Vietnam, China, and Cuba. He moved to Guinea-Conakry in 1969 and became an aide to Guinean Prime Minister Ahmed Sekou Torue. He also changed his name to Kwame Ture. His second book, “Stokely Speaks: Black Power Back to Pan-Africanism,” was published in 1971. Carmichael died November 15, 1998. “Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)” was published in 2005 and “Stokely: A Life” was published in 2014.
     
  • June 29, 1944 Claude B. Humphrey, hall of fame football player, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Humphrey played college football at Tennessee State University where he was a three-time All-American. He was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1968 National Football League Draft and that year was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Over his 14 season professional career, Humphrey was a six-time Pro Bowl selection. Humphrey retired after the 1981 season and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
     
  • June 29, 1956 Charles Everett Dumas became the first person to high jump seven feet. He made the historic jump at the United States Olympic Trials. He went on to win the Gold medal in the high jump at the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympic Games. Dumas was born February 12, 1937 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In addition to the Olympic Gold medal, he won consecutive national high jump titles between 1955 and 1959. Dumas earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in school management from the University of California, Los Angeles and spent 40 years as a teacher, administrator, and coach at Los Angeles high schools. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1990. Dumas died January 5, 2004. 
     
  • June 29, 1964 Eric Allen Dolphy, Jr., hall of fame jazz multi-instrumentalist, died. Dolphy was born June 20, 1928 in Los Angeles, California. He 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. Dolphy was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1964.
     
  • June 29, 1969 Moise Kapenda Tshombe, Congolese politician, died. Tshombe was born November 10, 1919 in Musumba, Congo. He founded the CONAKAT political party, which espoused an independent federal Congo, in the 1950s. When the Congo became an independent republic August 16, 1960, CONAKAT won control of the Katanga provincial legislature. They declared Katanga’s secession from the rest of the Congo and Tshombe was elected president. The United Nations forced Katanga to submit to Congolese rule and Tshombe went into exile in 1963. He returned to the Congo in 1964 to serve as prime minister in a coalition government. However, President Joseph Mobutu brought treason charges against Tshombe in 1965 and he was forced to flee the country again. Tshombe died in exile under house arrest in Algeria. His biographies include “Tshombe” (1967) and “The Rise and Fall of Moise Tshombe: A Biography” (1968).   
     
  • June 29, 1987 Elizabeth Nevills “Libba” Cotten, blues and folk musician, singer and songwriter, died. Cotten was born January 5, 1893 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Cotton began to play her older brother’s banjo at seven and had bought her own guitar and taught herself to play by eleven. Cotten began to write her own songs in her early teens. One of which, “Freight Train,” became her signature song and was later covered by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez, amongst many others. Cotten married at 17, had a daughter, and retired her guitar for more than 40 years. In 1958, she recorded “Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar.” She toured with many big names in the early 1960s, including John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and Mississippi John Hurt. She released “Shake Sugaree” in 1967 and won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for “Elizabeth Cotten Live.” Cotten was declared a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984. 
     
  • June 29, 1996 The Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum in Oakville, Alabama was dedicated. Owens was born September 12, 1913 in Oakville but raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He first came to national attention while in high school when he equaled the world record of 9.4 seconds in the 100 yard dash and long jumped 24 feet 9 ½ inches at the 1933 National High School Championships. He attended Ohio State University where he won a record eight individual National Collegiate Athletic Association championships. Despite that success, he had to live off campus and was never offered a scholarship to the university. At the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games, Owens won Gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter races, the 4 by 100 meter relay race, and the long jump. While in Germany, Owens was allowed to travel with and stay in the same hotels as White people, a right that was denied him in the United States. After a New York City ticker-tape parade in his honor, Owens had to ride the freight elevator to attend his own reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. After the Olympic Games, there were no lucrative financial offers and Owens eventually filed for bankruptcy. He began working as a U. S. goodwill ambassador in the late 1960s, speaking about the importance of religion, hard work, and loyalty. Owens was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Gerald Ford August 5, 1976. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1974. Owens died March 31, 1980. USA Track & Field created the Jesse Owens Award in 1981 and it is annually given to the country’s top track and field athlete. The Congressional Gold Medal was presented to his widow by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1990 and 1998. A statue of Owens in Huntington Park in Cleveland was unveiled in 1982 and Ohio State dedicated the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in 2001. Owens published his autobiography, “Blackthink: My Life as a Black Man and White Man” in 1970. Owens name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, MI.
     
  • June 29, 2007 The John Coltrane Home in the Dix Hills neighborhood of Huntington, New York was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The home was the residence of Coltrane from 1964 to his death July 17, 1967 and where he composed “A Love Supreme” in 1964. His wife and family continued to reside at the home until 1973. The house was purchased by the town of Huntington in 2006 and turned over to the Friends of the Coltrane Home. John William Coltrane was born September 23, 1926 in Hamlet, North Carolina. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1945 and played in the jazz band. After returning to civilian life, Coltrane began freelancing around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Coltrane was part of the Miles Davis Quintet that recorded the 1956 albums “Cookin’,” “Relaxin’,” “Workin’,” and “Steamin’” from October, 1955 to April, 1957. He rejoined Davis in 1958 and appeared on “Milestones” (1958) and “Kind of Blue” (1959). Coltrane recorded “Giant Steps,” the first album of his compositions, in 1960. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1965. He was posthumously awarded the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Solo Performance for “Bye Bye Blackbird” and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1995. The John Coltrane House in Philadelphia was designated a National Historic Landmark January 20, 1999. Coltrane was posthumously awarded a Special Citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board in 2007. Many books have been written about Coltrane, including “Coltrane: A Biography” (1975) and “John Coltrane: His Life and Music” (1999). 
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