Today in Black History 07/06/2015 | Kevin Hart - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 07/06/2015 | Kevin Hart


  • July 6, 1914 Viola Davis Desmond, businesswoman and civil libertarian, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Desmond wished to train as a beautician but was not allowed to in Halifax because of her race. Therefore, she trained in Montreal, Atlantic City, and New York. After training, Desmond returned to Halifax and started her hair salon. She also established The Desmond School of Beauty Culture, to train other Black females, and Vi’s Beauty Products. While on a business trip in 1946, Desmond’s car broke down in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and she was told that the repair would take a day. As a result, she decided to see a movie. At the ticket counter, Desmond requested a ticket for a seat on the main floor and believing that was what she was given took a seat on the main floor. Subsequently, the manager of the theater approached her and informed her that it was against their policy to sell a main floor ticket to a Black person and she should move to the balcony where Black people sat. Desmond refused to move and was forcibly removed from the theater and jailed. She was eventually convicted of not paying the one-cent difference in tax between a main floor ticket and a balcony ticket. With the assistance of the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, Desmond fought the conviction in court but was ultimately unsuccessful. After that, she closed her business and eventually moved to New York where she died February 7, 1965. Desmond was granted a free pardon April 14, 2010, the first such pardon granted in Canada, which admits that the government made a mistake and the law was wrong. A documentary, “Long Road to Justice: The Viola Desmond Story” is available on youtube and a children’s book, “Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged” was published in 2010. The Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice at Cape Breton University was established in 2010 and Canada Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2012. Desmond’s portrait hangs in Government House in Halifax. “Sister to Courage: Stories from the World of Viola Desmond” was published in 2010.  
  • July 6, 1931 Della Reese, singer, actress and minister, was born Delloreese Patricia Early in Detroit, Michigan. Reese began singing in church at six and was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group at 13. After graduating from high school, she formed her own gospel group called the Meditation Singers. Reese released “And That Reminds Me” in 1957 and it became a Top Twenty Pop hit and sold over a million copies. That same year, she was voted by Billboard The Most Promising Singer. She released “Don’t You Know” in 1959 and it reached number two on the Pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. Reese recorded regularly during the 1960s, releasing albums such as “The Classic Della” (1962), “Della Reese Live” (1966), and “On Strings of Blue” (1967). In 1970, Reese became the first Black woman to guest host “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”. She starred in the film “Harlem Nights” in 1989. In 1994, Reese received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994 and starred in the television series “Touched by an Angel” from 1994 to 2002. For her performance on that show, Reese was nominated for Emmy Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 1997 and 1998. Reese has also been nominated for four Grammy Awards. She was ordained a minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in 2010. Reese appeared in the television film “Dear Secret Santa” in 2013.
  • July 6, 1937 Gene Chandler, singer, songwriter, producer and executive, was born Eugene Dixon in Chicago, Illinois. Chandler began performing in the early 1950s and joined a group called The Dukays in 1957. The group recorded several singles before recording “Duke of Earl” in 1961.  The song was credited solely to Chandler and sold a million copies in the first month after release. Chandler had several other Top 20 hits during the 1960s, including “Just Be True” (1964), “Nothing Can Stop Me” (1965), and “There Was A Time” (1968). Chandler wrote, arranged and produced “Groovy Situation” in 1970 and it sold more than a million copies. Also that year, he received the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers Producer of the Year Award. Chandler received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1997 and “Duke of Earl” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance” in 1998. Chandler continues to perform around the United States.
  • July 6, 1943 Robert Mack Bell, the first African American to serve as Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, was born in Rocky Mountain, North Carolina but raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Bell earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, second in his class, in history from Morgan State University in 1966 and his Juris Doctor degree from Harvard Law School in 1969. He was appointed to the District Court of Maryland in 1975, the youngest judge in the state. He served there until 1980 when he was appointed Associate Judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, a position he held until 1984. That year, Bell was appointed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Bell was appointed to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, in 1991 and became the chief justice in 1996, a position he held until mandatory retirement in 2013. Bell served as chair of the National Center for State Courts’ Board of Directors and president of the Conference of Chief Justices from 2006 to 2007.
  • July 6, 1946 Horace Pippin, self-taught painter, died. Pippin was born February 22, 1888 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He served in the 369th Infantry Harlem Hellfighters during World War I where he lost the use of his right arm. Pippin started painting in 1930 and his work includes portraits, landscapes, and religious subjects. His painting “John Brown Going to the Hanging” (1942) is in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and “Domino Players” (1943) is in the Phillips Collection. Other well known works include “Self Portrait” (1941) and several versions of “Cabin in the Cotton”. His biography, “I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin”, was published in 1993.
  • July 6, 1947 Larnelle Steward Harris, hall of fame gospel singer and composer, was born in Danville, Kentucky. Harris earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Western Kentucky University in 1969. After graduating, he toured with a couple of gospel groups through 1987. Harris has composed more than 30 songs and recorded more than 15 albums. He has won five Grammy Awards, including Best Gospel Performance, Male for “The Father Hath Provided” in 1987 and “Larnelle…..Christmas” in 1998. Harris was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Western Kentucky in 2008. He received the 2014 Kentucky Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts.
  • July 6, 1949 Phyllis Linda Hyman, singer and actress, was born 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 “Sophisticated Ladies”. She performed the role for two years and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. Other albums released by Hyman include “Somewhere in My Lifetime” (1978), “Living All Alone” (1985), and “Prime of My Life” (1991). Hyman committed suicide June 30, 1995. 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.
  • July 6, 1954 Donnie L. Cochran, the first African American to command the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron (Blue Angels), was born near Pelham, Georgia. Cochran earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Savannah State University in 1976 and was a member of the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corp program. After completing flight school, he earned his navy wings in 1978. Cochran became the first African American to become a member of the Blue Angels precision flying team in 1985 and became the commanding officer of the team in 1994. Cochran resigned that position in 1996 and retired from the navy in 2000. While in the navy, Cochran graduated from the Air War College and earned a master’s degree in human resource management from Troy State University. Savannah State dedicated a memorial on the university’s campus in honor of Cochran May 10, 1991. He is currently manager of aviation programs for The Coca Cola Company.
  • July 6, 1960 Valerie Brisco-Hooks, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. Brisco-Hooks attended California State University-Northridge and won the 1984 national outdoor 400 meter championship and became the first woman to run the event in under 50 seconds. At the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, she won Gold medals in the 200 meter and 400 meter races and the 4 by 400 relay. She was the first Olympian to win the Gold medal in the 200 and 400 meter races at the same Olympic Games. At the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games, she won the Silver medal as a member of the 4 by 400 relay team. Brisco-Hooks retired after the 1988 games and was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1995. She currently trains disadvantage children for the Special Olympics.
  • July 6, 1964 The Republic of Malawi gained independence from the United Kingdom. Malawi is located in southeast Africa and bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique to the east, south and west. The country is approximately 45,560 square miles in area and the capital and largest city is Lilongwe. Malawi has a population of 13,900,000. Approximately 80% of the population are Christian and around 13% are Muslim. The official language is English.
  • July 6, 1971 Henry Thomas Sampson, Jr. from Jackson, Mississippi received patent number 3,591,860 for his invention of the gamma-electric cell for nuclear reactor use. His invention produces stable high-voltage output and current to detect radiation in the ground. Sampson was born April 22, 1934 in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University in 1956 and his Master of Science degree in engineering from the University of California in 1961. Sampson earned his Master of Science degree in 1965 and Ph. D. in 1967 in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois, the first African American to earn a doctorate in nuclear engineering in the United States. Sampson is also a writer and film historian. He has written “Blacks in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films” (1977) and “The Ghost Walks: A Chronological History of Blacks in Show Business, 1865 – 1910” (1988). Sampson is also a technical consultant to the Historical Black Colleges and Universities Program. The Henry Thomas Sampson Library in Jackson is named in his honor.
  • July 6, 1971 Louis Daniel “Satchmo” “Pops” Armstrong, hall of fame jazz trumpeter and singer, died. Armstrong was born August 4, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a teenager, Armstrong played with and was mentored by Joe “King” Oliver and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1922 to join Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Armstrong came to prominence in the mid-1920s as an innovative cornet and trumpet player, shifting jazz’s focus from collective improvisation to solo performers. With his distinctive voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer and his influence extended beyond jazz to popular music in general by the 1960s. He had many hit records, including “Hello Dolly”, which won the 1965 Grammy Award for Song of the Year and Armstrong the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, and “What A Wonderful World” (1968), which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance”. In addition to those two recordings, Armstrong has nine other recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1952. Armstrong was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1995. The house where Armstrong lived for almost 28 years in Queens, New York was declared a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976 and is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum. The Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport is named in his honor. Armstrong published his autobiography, “Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans”, in 1954. Other biographies of Armstrong include “Louis Armstrong Story, 1900-1971” (1971) and “Louis Armstrong: An American Genius” (1985).
  • July 6, 1975 50 Cent, rapper, actor and entrepreneur, was born Curtis James Jackson in Queens, New York. Jackson’s first official appearance was on a song titled “React” with the group Onyx in 1998. He released his debut album, “Power of the Dollar” in 2000. His breakthrough occurred with the 2003 release of the album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”. That album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and sold 872,000 copies in the first four days and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Jackson released “The Massacre” in 2005 and it sold 1.14 million copies in the first four days and has sold more than 11 million copies. It also resulted in Jackson becoming the first solo artist to have three singles in the Billboard top five in the same week. Jackson’s other albums are “Curtis” (2007), “Before I Self Destruct” (2009), “Black Magic” (2010), and “Animal Ambition” (2014). He has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards and won the 2010 award for Best Rap Performance by A Duo or Group for “Crack A Bottle” with Eminem and Dr. Dre. Billboard magazine named him the Number One Rap Song Artist of the 2000 – 2009 decade. Jackson has also appeared in films, including “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” (2005), “Home of the Brave” (2006), “Righteous Kill” (2008), and “Setup” (2011). Jackson is involved in a number of business and philanthropic ventures. He published his autobiography, “From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens”, in 2005.
  • July 6, 1975 The Union of the Comoros gained its independence from France. The Comoros is an island nation in the Indian Ocean at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off the eastern coast of Africa between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. It is approximately 863 square miles in size and the capital and largest city is Moroni. The Comoros has a population of approximately 798,000 people with 98% Muslim. The official languages are Comorian, Arabic, and French.
  • July 6, 2002 The New York Yankees dedicated a plaque in honor of Reginald Martinez “Reggie” Jackson in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. Jackson was born May 18, 1946 in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. He excelled in baseball and football in high school and went to Arizona State University on a football scholarship. Jackson was selected by the Kansas City Athletics in the 1966 Major League Baseball Draft and made his major league debut in 1967. Over his 21 season professional career, he was a 14-time All-Star, 2-time Silver Slugger winner, 5-time World Series champion, and the 1973 American League Most Valuable Player. Jackson retired as a player in 1987 and currently serves as a special advisor to the Yankees. Also during his career and after, Jackson has consistently spoken out about race relations and lobbied baseball teams to hire Black former players as managers, coaches, scouts, and front office executives. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993 and that same year the Yankees retired his uniform number 44. “Reggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball’s Mr. October” was published in 2010. Also in 2010, Jackson co-authored with fellow hall of famer Bob Gibson “Sixty-Feet Six Inches”, detailing their careers and approach to baseball.
  • July 6, 2010 Harvey Fuqua, songwriter, record producer and hall of fame member of the Moonglows, died. Fuqua was born July 27, 1929 in Louisville, Kentucky. He formed a vocal group called The Crazy Sounds in 1951. Later they moved to Cleveland, Ohio and were renamed The Moonglows. The group recorded their first single in 1953 and their 1954 single “Sincerely” reached number one on the R&B charts. Fuqua left the group in 1958 and recorded a couple of hit duets with Etta James, “If I Can’t Have You” (1960) and “Spoonful” (1961). Fuqua started his own record label in 1961 with acts such as The Spinners and Junior Walker. Shortly afterwards, he joined Motown Records and brought The Spinners and Johnny Bristol with him. He also was responsible for bringing Tammi Terrell to the company and producing her duets with Marvin Gaye, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967) which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance”. Fuqua produced Marvin Gaye’s 1982 album “Midnight Love” which included the single “Sexual Healing”. Fuqua and his wife founded The Foundation for the S. T. A. R. S. (Souls Taking Action Reaching Souls) in 1995 to address the difficulties that plague underprivileged youth in the inner-cities of America, with the belief that every dream should at least have the opportunity to be realized. Fuqua was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Moonglows in 2000.
  • July 6, 2011 John Mackey, hall of fame football player, died. Mackey was born September 24, 1941 in Long Island, New York. He played college football at Syracuse University. He was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 1963 National Football League Draft and by his third year in the league had revolutionized the position of tight end. Mackey was forced to retire in 1972 due to injuries but over his ten-season professional career was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. After retirement, Mackey became the first president of the NFL Players Association where he helped organize a strike that earned players $11 million in pensions and other benefits. In 2000, the Nassau County Sports Commission created the John Mackey Award which annually honors the top Division 1 college tight end and Syracuse retired his uniform number 88 in 2007. As a result of contact during his football career, Mackey suffered from dementia. In response, the NFL and the NFL Players Association created the “88 Plan”, named after Mackey’s number. It provides $88,000 per year for nursing home care and up to $50,000 annually for adult day care for retired professional football players.


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