Today in Black History 06/30/2015 | Allensworth - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 06/30/2015 | Allensworth

  • June 30, 1853 Pierre Toussaint, hairdresser and philanthropist, died. Toussaint was born enslaved June 27, 1766 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. 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, 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 30, 1917 Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, singer, actress, dancer and civil rights activist, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Horne joined the chorus line at the Cotton Club at 16 and a few years later joined the Noble Sissle Orchestra. She made her MGM debut in “Panama Hattie” in 1942 and performed the title song “Stormy Weather.” Horne became the first Black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio in 1943. She appeared in a number of MGM musicals but was never featured in a leading role because of her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showings in states where theaters would not show films with Black performers. Horne was blacklisted because of her political views during the 1950s and she left Hollywood to become one of the premier nightclub performers. She headlined at clubs and hotels throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Her 1957 album “Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria” became the biggest selling record by a female artist in the history of the RCA-Victor label. Horne was nominated for the 1958 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in “Jamaica.” She starred in her own television special, “Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne,” in 1969. Horne debuted her one-woman show “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music” in 1981 and received a special Tony Award for her performance. The soundtrack from the show won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and Horne won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Female. Horne was always involved with the Civil Rights Movement. During World War II, she refused to perform for segregated audiences or for groups in which German prisoners of war were seated in front of African American servicemen. She also spoke and performed at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Horne was awarded the 1983 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal and received Kennedy Center Honors in 1984. Over her career, Horne won four Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989. She was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in 2006. Horne died May 9, 2010. She published her autobiography, “Lena,” in 1965. Biographies of Horne include “In Person, Lena Horne” (1950) and “Lena: A Personal and Professional Biography of Lena Horne” (1984).

  • June 30, 1930 Thomas Sowell, economist, social critic and author, was born in Gastonia, North Carolina but raised in Harlem, New York. Sowell dropped out of school at 17 and worked at various jobs until 1951 when he was drafted into the United States Marine Corps. After his discharge in 1953, Sowell passed the GED examination and went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1958, his Master of Arts degree in economics from Columbia University in 1959, and his Ph. D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1968. Sowell has taught economics at Howard University, Cornell University, Brandeis University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been a senior fellow of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University since 1980. Sowell has written more than 30 books on a wide range of subjects, including “Marxism: Philosophy and Economics” (1986), “Race and Culture: A World View” (1995), “The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late” (2002), “Dismantling America: and other controversial essays” (2010), and “Intellectuals and Race” (2013). His autobiography, “A Personal Odyssey,” was published in 2002. Sowell won the Francis Boyer Award, the highest honor presented by the American Enterprise Institute, in 1990. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush February 27, 2003 for prolific scholarship melding history, economics, and political science and that same year was awarded the Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement. Sowell also writes a nationally syndicated column that appears in Forbes Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and other major newspapers and magazines.

  • June 30, 1931 Andrew Hill, hall of fame jazz pianist, composer and educator, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Hill started playing the piano at 13 and while still a teenager, performed with touring jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. He recorded such albums as “Black Fire” (1963), “Andrew!!!” (1964), “Compulsion!!!!!” (1965), and “Lift Every Voice” (1969). He served as composer in residence at Colgate University in Canada from 1970 to 1972 and later taught at Portland State University. Hill’s album “Dusk” was selected as the best album of 2001 by Down Beat Magazine. Hill died April 20, 2007. Also that year, he was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame and became the first person to receive a posthumous honorary doctorate degree from Berklee College of Music. Hill was designated a NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, in 2008.

  • June 30, 1948 President Harry Truman signed a bill proclaiming February 1 as National Freedom Day. Major Richard Robert Wright, Sr., a formerly enslaved African American, initiated the movement for the day. He invited local and national leaders to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to meet to organize a movement for a national holiday to commemorate President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution February 1, 1865. The first commemoration took place February 1, 1942 and included laying a wreath at the Liberty Bell. That tradition has been repeated every year since. The purpose of the holiday is “to promote good feelings, harmony, and equal opportunity among all citizens and to remember that the United States is a nation dedicated to the ideal of freedom.”

  •  June 30, 1958 The Supreme Court of the United States in the case of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Alabama ruled that Alabama’s demand for the membership list of the NAACP had violated the right of due process guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the constitution. The demand for the membership list was an attempt to prevent the NAACP from conducting business in the state. The court held that “Immunity from state scrutiny of petitioner’s membership lists is here so related to the right of petitioner’s members to pursue their lawful private interests privately and to associate freely with others in doing so as to come within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

  • June 30, 1960 Clarence Cameron White, violinist, educator and composer, died. White was born August 10, 1880 in Clarkville, Tennessee. He started studying violin at eight and entered the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1896 and was the only Black student in the orchestra. Before graduating, he left Oberlin to accept a teaching position. White also studied in Paris and at the Julliard School of Music and arranged many Black spirituals for voice and violin, including “Forty Negro Spirituals” (1927) and “Traditional Negro Spirituals” (1940). White taught at Virginia State College from 1924 to 1930 and at Hampton Institute from 1932 to 1935. The 1954 Benjamin Award was presented to White for “Elegy,” a composition for orchestra. He is credited with more than 100 compositions, including an opera, “Ouanga,” which was performed at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House in 1956. He also played at the White House for Presidents William McKinley and Franklin D. Roosevelt. His biography is titled “Music Inside My Heart: Biography of Clarence Cameron White.”  

  • June 30, 1960 The Democratic Republic of the Congo gained its independence from Belgium. The DRC is located in Central Africa bordered by the Central African Republic and Sudan to the north, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi to the east, Zambia and Angola to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the west. The capital and largest city is Kinshasa. The DRC is the third largest country in Africa at 905,355 square miles of area and the fourth most populous nation in Africa with more than 68 million people and as many as 250 ethnic groups. Christianity is the religion of approximately 90% of the population. The official language is French.

  • June 30, 1965 Mitchell James “Mitch” Richmond, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Richmond played college basketball at Kansas State University. He was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the 1988 National Basketball Association Draft and was Rookie of the Year in his first season. Richmond retired in 2002 and over his professional career was a six-time NBA All-Star. He also won a Bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games and a Gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games as a member of the United States men’s basketball team. During his prime, Richmond was considered one of the best pure shooters in the game. His jersey number 23 was retired by Kansas State and his jersey number 2 was retired by the Sacramento Kings. Richmond was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

  • June 30, 1966 Michael Gerald “Iron Mike” Tyson, hall of fame boxer, was born in Brooklyn, New York. After the death of his mother, Tyson was left in the care of boxing manager and trainer Cus D’Amato who became his legal guardian at 16. Tyson won the Silver medal at the 1982 Junior Olympic Games. He made his professional boxing debut in 1985 and won the World Boxing Council Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1986, the youngest heavyweight champion in history. Tyson had won all of the major titles by 1988 and was considered the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. He was named Ring Magazine “Fighter of the Year” in 1986 and 1988. In one of the most shocking upsets in sports history, the “undefeatable” Tyson was beaten by Buster Douglas in February, 1990. After that defeat, personal problems, incarceration, and other issues combined to effectively end Tyson’s championship quest. He retired from professional boxing in 2005 with a record of 50 wins, 6 defeats, and 2 no contests. He is ranked number 16 on Ring magazine’s list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. The documentary, “Tyson,” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Tyson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010. He founded the Mike Tyson Cares Foundation in 2012 to “give kids a fighting chance by providing innovative centers that provide for the comprehensive needs of kids from broken homes.” Also that year, he debuted a one-man show “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.” Tyson published his autobiography, “Undisputed Truth’, in 2013.

  • June 30, 1966 Donald Russell Long, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Long was born August 27, 1939 in Blackfork, Ohio. He joined the United States Army in 1963 and by 1966 was serving as a sergeant in Troop C, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division in the Republic of Vietnam. Long’s citation partially reads, “while conducting a reconnaissance mission along a road were suddenly attacked by a Viet Cong regiment, supported by mortars, recoilless rifles and machine guns, from concealed positions astride the road. Sgt. Long abandoned the relative safety of his armored personnel carrier and braved a withering hail of enemy fire to carry wounded men to evacuation helicopters. As the platoon fought its way forward to resupply advanced elements, Sgt. Long repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire at point blank range to provide the needed supplies. While assaulting the Viet Cong position, Sgt. Long inspired his comrades by fearlessly standing unprotected to repel the enemy with rifle fire and grenades as they attempted to mount his carrier. When the enemy threatened to overrun a disabled carrier nearby, Sgt. Long again disregarded his own safety to help the severely wounded crew to safety. As he was handing arms to the less wounded and reorganizing them to press the attack, an enemy grenade was hurled onto the carrier deck. Immediately recognizing the imminent danger, he instinctively shouted a warning to the crew and pushed to safety one man who had not heard his warning over the roar of battle. Realizing that these actions would not fully protect the exposed crewmen from the deadly explosion, he threw himself over the grenade to absorb the blast and thereby saved the lives of 8 of his comrades at the expense of his life.” The medal, America’s highest military decoration, was presented to his family April 4, 1968.  

  • June 30, 1971 Rosa Jinsey Young, “the mother of Black Lutheranism in Alabama,” died. Young was born May 14, 1890 in Rosebud, Alabama. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Payne University, and was the valedictorian of her class, in 1909. After receiving her teaching certificate, she taught at various schools for African Americans across Alabama. Young established the Rosebud Literary and Industrial School in 1912. However, the school was on the brink of closure due to financial problems by 1915. The Lutheran Church provided financial support to keep the school open and added Lutheran based instruction to the school’s curriculum. Young went on to help found five other Lutheran based schools across Alabama, including Alabama Lutheran Academy and College (now Concordia College) in 1922 and where she served on the faculty from 1946 to 1961. Young published her  autobiography, “Light in the Dark Belt,” in 1930 and received an honorary doctorate degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1961 for her dedicated service.

  • June 30, 1973 William Robert Ming, Jr., civil rights attorney and educator, died. Ming was born May 7, 1911 in Chicago, Illinois. He earned his Ph. D. in 1931 and his Juris Doctor degree in 1933 from the University of Chicago. He was one of the first African American members of a law review and was published in the inaugural issue of the University of Chicago Law Review. Ming served in the United State Army’s Judge Advocates General Corp, rising to the rank of captain. While working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he was one of the architects of the legal strategy in Brown v. Board of Education. Ming also played a prominent role in a number of other Supreme Court civil rights cases. He helped defend Martin Luther King, Jr. against perjury charges related to alleged tax evasion in 1960. After King was acquitted, a White Alabama lawyer said “Negro or not, he is a master of the law.” Ming was also a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1947 to 1953 and became the first African American full-time faculty member at a predominantly White law school. The NAACP created the William Robert Ming Advocacy Award in 1974 which is given annually to a lawyer “who exemplifies the spirit of financial and personal sacrifice that Mr. Ming displayed in his legal work for the NAACP.”

  • June 30, 1973 A 9 ½ foot aluminum statue of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was unveiled in Richmond, Virginia. The statue sits on a 6 foot pedestal and is located at the intersection of old Brook Road, West Leigh, and Price streets. It was placed there because in 1933 Robinson saw two children risk speeding traffic to cross the intersection because there was no stoplight. He went to the city and provided the funding to install a stoplight. Robinson was born May 25, 1878 in Richmond. He began to dance for a living at six. Robinson served in the United States Army from 1898 to 1900. He gained success and fame on the Black theater circuit and did not dance for White audiences until he was 50 years old when he was featured in “Blackbirds of 1928,” a Black revue for White audiences. Robinson appeared in 14 motion pictures after 1930, most frequently as a butler opposite Shirley Temple in such films as “The Little Colonel” (1935) and “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1938). He also performed on the stage in “The Hot Mikado” (1939) and “All in Fun” (1940). Despite earning more than $2 million during his lifetime, Robinson died penniless November 25, 1949. In 1989, a congressional resolution declared Robinson’s birthday, May 25, National Tap Dance Day. Robinson was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 1987. His biography, “Mr. Bojangles: the biography of Bill Robinson,” was published in 1988.

  • June 30, 1973 The USS Miller, a Knox-class destroyer escort, was commissioned by the United States Navy. The ship was named for Doris “Dorie” Miller. It was decommissioned in 1991 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995. Miller was born October 12, 1919 in Waco, Texas. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1939. On December 7, 1941, Miller was serving as a cook on the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked by the Japanese. Although he had no anti-aircraft gun training, Miller took control of one and fired until the gun ran out of ammunition. He was awarded the Navy Cross, the first African American to receive it, for his extraordinary courage in battle May 27, 1942. The Navy Cross is the highest decoration bestowed by the Department of the Navy. Miller died November 24, 1943 while serving on the USS Liscome Bay which was hit by a Japanese torpedo and sank. There are many schools, streets, and parks named in his honor around the country. His biography, “A Man Named Doris,” was published in 2003. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2010.

  • June 30, 1991 The Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act was enacted to repeal the Group Areas Act in South Africa. The Groups Area Act (Act No. 41) was initially enacted by the apartheid government of South Africa July 7, 1950 to assign racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas of the country. The act led to many non-Whites being forcibly removed for living in the “wrong” area and it caused many to commute long distances from their homes to work.

  • June 30, 1995 Phyllis Linda Hyman, singer and actress, committed suicide. Hyman was born July 6, 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hyman moved to New York City in her early 20s and began performing with a number of musical groups. She also appeared in the 1974 movie “Lenny.” She appeared on Norman Conner’s 1976 album “You Are My Starship” and the duo scored on the R&B charts with “Betcha by Golly Wow!.” Hyman released her first solo album, “Phyllis Hyman,” in 1977. Hyman debuted on Broadway in the 1981 musical “Sophisticate Ladies.” She performed the role for two years and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Other albums released during her lifetime include “Somewhere in My Lifetime” (1978), “Living All Alone” (1985), and “Prime of My Life” (1991). Two other albums, “I Refuse to Be Lonely” (1995) and “Forever With You” (1998), were released posthumously. Hyman’s biography, “Strength of a Woman: the Phyllis Hyman Story,” was published in 2007.

  • June 30, 2001 Joe Henderson, hall of fame jazz tenor saxophonist, died. Henderson was born April 24, 1937 in Lima, Ohio. He was encouraged to study music at a young age and by 18 was studying at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and playing on the local jazz scene. After serving in the United States Army from 1960 to 1962, he moved to New York City and joined Horace Silver’s band. He appeared on 30 albums between 1963 and 1968, including five released under his name. His music began to reflect his growing political awareness and social consciousness by the late 1960s with albums like “Power to the People” (1969), “In Pursuit of Blackness” (1971), and “Black Narcissus” (1975). Henderson won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Solo and Record of the Year from Down Beat Magazine for “Lush Life” in 1992. He won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumentalist and Jazz Record of the Year from Billboard Magazine for “So Near, So Far” in 1993. Henderson was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1999. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2001.
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