Today in Black History 07/05/2015 | Naomi Cornelia Long Madgett - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 07/05/2015 | Naomi Cornelia Long Madgett

  • July 5, 1878 Jesse Max Barber, journalist, dentist and civil rights activist, was born in Blackstock, South Carolina. Barber attended Virginia Union University where he was student editor of the University Journal and president of the Literary Society and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1903. He began working for the Voice of the Negro in 1904, eventually rising to editor-in-chief. The magazine argued for Black civil rights and stressed the importance of chronicling historical events for future generations. It was the leading Black magazine in the United States with a circulation of 15,000 by 1906. After the Atlanta Riots in 1906, Barber was threatened by White vigilantes and was forced to move to Chicago, Illinois. Unable to get financing in Chicago, the magazine folded in 1907. Barber was one of the founders of the Niagara Movement in 1905. He graduated from the Philadelphia Dental School in 1912 and opened an office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served as president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1919 to 1921 and later served as president of the John Brown Memorial Association. Barber died September 20, 1949.

  • July 5, 1879 Joshua Bowen Smith, caterer and abolitionist, died. Smith was born November 7, 1813 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts to work as a headwaiter in 1836. Several years later, Smith started his own catering business and over the next 25 years accumulated considerable wealth catering for Black abolitionist organizations and Union soldiers during the Civil War. Throughout his life, Smith worked for the abolitionist cause. He also provided jobs for Black people that had escaped enslavement. Smith was the first African American member of the Saint Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons of Massachusetts. He also represented Cambridge, Massachusetts in the state legislature from 1873 to 1874.
  • July 5, 1887 Granville T. Woods of Cincinnati, Ohio received patent number 366,192 for his improvements in polarized relays. He improved the construction to allow a more sensitive and consistent action under all circumstances. It was particularly intended for telegraphy between moving trains. Relays previously in use were negatively impacted by the jarring and shaking movement of the cars. Woods was born April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio. He was often called the “Black Edison” and over his lifetime was granted approximately 60 patents. Despite these achievements, Woods died virtually penniless January 30, 1910. The Granville T. Woods Math and Science Community Academy in Chicago, Illinois is named in his honor. Woods was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • July 5, 1892 Andrew Jackson Beard of Woodlawn, Alabama received patent number 478,271 for an improved rotary steam engine which was cheaper and easier to build and operate than conventional steam engines. Beard was born March 29, 1849 in Woodlawn and spent his first fifteen years enslaved. After emancipation, he worked as a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, railroad worker, and businessman. He patented his first invention, a plow, in 1891 and sold the rights for $4,000. He patented a second plow in 1887 and sold the rights for $5,200. He then invested the money from his inventions into a profitable real estate business. Beard received patent number 594,059 November 23, 1897 for his improved rail coupler design. Before automatic car couplers, railroad workers had to manually hook railroad cars together by dropping a pin between the two connectors of the engaging cars. Often the workers could not move away from the cars fast enough and many, including Beard, lost limbs after becoming wedged between the cars. Beard sold the rights to this patent for $50,000. Little is known of Beard’s later life except that he died in 1921. Beard was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • July 5, 1899 Anna Arnold Hedgeman, educator, author and civil rights leader, was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. Hedgeman became the first African American to enroll at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1918 and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1922. For two years, she taught English and history at Rust College in Mississippi where she experienced the humiliation of segregation for the first time. Hedgeman then worked for the Young Women’s Christian Association as executive director of branches in Ohio, New Jersey, Harlem, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn. She became the first African American woman to hold a mayoral cabinet position in New York City history in 1954. In later years, she owned Hedgeman Consultant Services and served as lecturer and consultant to numerous educational centers, boards, and colleges and universities, particularly in the area of African American studies. She also authored “The Trumpet Sounds” (1964) and “The Gift of Chaos” (1977). Hedgeman died January 17, 1990.
  • July 5, 1902 Panama Al Brown, hall of fame boxer, was born Alfonso Teofilo Brown in Colon, Panama. Brown started his professional boxing career in 1922 and moved to New York City in 1923. He won the World Bantamweight Boxing Championship in 1929, the first Hispanic world champion in boxing history. Brown lost the title in 1935 and retired from boxing in 1942 with a record of 123 wins, 18 losses, and 10 draws. After retiring, he served as a sparring partner for other boxers in Harlem. Brown died penniless April 11, 1951. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. His biography, “Panama Al Brown, 1902 – 1951,” was published in 1998.
  • July 5, 1915 John Youie Woodruff, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. As a 21 year old college freshman, Woodruff won the Gold medal in the 800 meter race at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1939 and his master’s degree in the same field from New York University in 1947. Woodruff served in the United States military from 1941 to 1945, rising to the rank of captain. He re-entered military service during the Korean War and was honorably discharged in 1957 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1978. Woodruff died October 30, 2007. Annually, a 5-kilometer race is held in Connellsvile to honor him.
  • July 5, 1950 Earl Shinhoster, civil rights leader, was born in Savannah, Georgia. Shinhoster got involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Savannah branch youth council at a young age and was president of the council at 16. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College in 1972 and later earned his Juris Doctor degree from Cleveland State University College of Law. After returning to Atlanta, he took a staff position with the NAACP where he worked for the next 25 years, including serving as interim director of the organization from 1994 to 1995. During his brief tenure, $1 million in debt was eliminated and membership increased from 600,000 to nearly 1 million. Shinhoster served as coordinator of voter education for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office from 1996 to 2000. There he developed a program to increase voter participation. Shinhoster died in a car accident June 11, 2000. The Earl T. Shinhoster Interchange, the Earl T. Shinhoster Bridge, and the Earl T. Shinhoster Post Office in Savannah are all named in his honor.
  • July 5, 1956 James David Lofton, hall of fame football player, was born in Fort Ord, California. Lofton excelled at track, football, and academically at Stanford University. He won the long jump at the 1978 National Collegiate Athletic Association Track and Field Championships and that same year earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in engineering. Lofton was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1978 National Football League Draft and over his 16 season professional career was an eight-time All-Pro selection. Lofton retired in 1993 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. He was the wide receiver coach for the San Diego Chargers from 2002 to 2008 and held the same position with the Oakland Raiders from 2008 to 2009. Lofton is currently a commentator for Sunday night football radio broadcasts.
  • July 5, 1962 The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria declared its independence from France. Algeria is located in North Africa and is bordered by Tunisia to the northeast, Libya to the east, Morocco to the west, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Mali to the southwest, Niger to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. It is approximately 919,500 square miles in size and the capital and largest city is Algiers. Algeria has a population of approximately 37,900,000 people with 99% of them Muslims. The official language is Arabic.
  • July 5, 1969 Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya, Kenyan politician, was assassinated. Mboya was born August 15, 1930 in Kilima Mbogo, Kenya. Mboya joined the African Staff Association in 1950 and a year later was elected president and began molding the association into a trade union named the Kenya Local Government Workers Union.  He received a scholarship to attend Ruskin College, Oxford in 1955 and graduated in industrial management in 1956. After returning from Britain, Mboya won a seat in the Legislative Council but became dissatisfied and formed his own party, the People’s Congress Party. At the 1958 All-African Peoples’ Conference, Mboya was elected conference chairman at 28. Mboya organized the Airlift Africa project in 1959 and sent 81 Kenyan students to the United States to study at U. S. universities. Hundreds of Kenyan students benefitted from the project between 1959 and 1963. A book detailing the project, “Airlift to America: How Barack Obama, Sr., John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours,” was published in 2009. The People’s Congress Party merged with the Kenya African Union and Kenya Independent Movement in 1960 to form the Kenya African National Union with Mboya as secretary general. After Kenya gained independence December 12, 1963, Mboya became Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and later Minister for Economic Planning and Development, the position he held at the time of his death. A street in Nairobi is named in his honor as well as Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu, Kenya. A monument in honor of Mboya was installed in Nairobi August 1, 2011.  
  • July 5, 1975 The Republic of Cape Verde gained its independence from Portugal. Cape Verde is an island country, spanning ten islands in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 350 miles off the coast of Western Africa. Combined the islands are approximately 1,500 square miles. The capital and largest city is Praia. Cape Verde’s population is approximately 567,000 with 85% of them Roman Catholic. The official language is Portugeuese.
  • July 5, 1987 A life-sized bronze statue of Lewis Temple wearing his blacksmith’s apron and examining a harpoon fitted with the iron toggle tip that he invented was unveiled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Temple was born enslaved in 1800 in Richmond, Virginia. Little is known of his early life except that he had no formal education. Temple was no longer enslaved by 1830 and had moved to New Bedford where he opened his own blacksmith business. He invented Temple’s Toggle, a harpoon that significantly improved the harpoon’s ability to stay connected to whales, in 1848. His invention was considered “the single most important invention in the whole history of whaling.” Temple did not patent the design and therefore it was copied by other blacksmiths. Soon it was used by all whalers and is still used in some parts of the world. Temple’s business thrived and he began construction on a larger blacksmith shop in 1854. Walking near the site, Temple fell into a hole dug by city workers and suffered serious injuries. He was awarded $2,000 but died May 18, 1854 before it could be collected.
  • July 5, 2004 Hugh Lawson Shearer, the third Prime Minister of Jamaica, died. Shearer was born May 18, 1923 in Martha Braie, Jamaica. He took a job with the weekly trade union newspaper, “The Jamaican Worker,” in 1941. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1955 and served until 1959 and was a member of the Senate from 1962 to 1967. He also served as Jamaica’s chief spokesman on foreign affairs as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United Nations. He was appointed prime minister in 1967 and served until 1972. His term was a prosperous one for Jamaica and was marked by the construction of 50 new schools and an upswing in secondary school enrollment. He was defeated in elections in 1972 but did serve as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs from 1980 to 1989. “Hugh Shearer; A Voice for the People” was published in 2005.   
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