Today in Black History 07/08/2015 | The Clotida - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 07/08/2015 | The Clotida


 

 

  • July 8, 1777 The Commonwealth of Vermont abolished slavery in their constitution. The constitution declared that all men are born equally free and independent and that no male over the age of 21 or female over the age of 18 may serve another in the role of servant, slave, or apprentice. When Vermont was admitted to the union in 1791, it carried over that constitution and thus became the first state in the United States to abolish slavery.
  • July 8, 1876 The Hamburg Massacre occurred in Hamburg, South Carolina, a defunct market town across the river from Augusta, Georgia which had been repopulated by freed Black people.  Hundreds of armed White men attacked a militia of free Black men, killing six and looting the town. The official report on the massacre, published four days later, stated “the facts show the demand on the militia to give up their arms was made by persons without lawful authority to enforce such demand or to receive the arms had they been surrendered; that the attack on the militia to compel a compliance with this demand was without lawful excuse or justification; and that after there had been some twenty or twenty-five prisoners captured and completely in the power of their captors, five of them were deliberately shot to death and three more severely wounded. It further appears that not content with thus satisfying their vengeance, many of the crowd added to their guilt the crime of robbery of defenseless people, and were only prevented from arson by the efforts of their leaders.” Despite the report, nobody was ever convicted for their involvement. 
  • July 8, 1908 Louis Thomas Jordan, hall of fame musician, songwriter and bandleader, was born in Brinkley, Arkansas. Jordan studied music under his father and during his youth played in his father’s bands. Jordan moved to New York City in 1932 and in 1936 joined the influential Savoy Ballroom orchestra in 1936 and played with them until 1938. His first recording was in 1938 and over his career he had four million-selling hits, “G. I. Jive” (1944), “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” (1944), “Caldonia” (1945), and “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” (1946). Jordon had 18 number one and 54 top ten singles on the “race charts” during the 1940s. His records spent 113 weeks at number one, the most by any Black recording artist to this day. Jordon died February 4, 1975. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2008 and the 1992 Broadway show, “Five Guys Named Moe” was devoted to Jordan’s music. Jordan was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983, received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Legacy Tribute Award in 2001, and the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution in 2008 honoring Jordan on the centenary of his birth. His biography, “Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan and His Music,” was published in 1994.
  • July 8, 1914 William Clarence “Billy” Eckstine, hall of fame bandleader and balladeer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ecstine began singing at seven and joined Earl Hines’ Grand Terrace Orchestra in 1939 as vocalist and occasional trumpeter. Eckstine formed his own band, which was the first bop big-band, in 1944. Eckstine went solo in 1947 and recorded more than a dozen hits during the late 1940s, including “Everything I Have is Yours” (1947), “Blue Moon” (1948), and “Caravan” (1949). He won Esquire Magazine’s 1946 New Star Award, the Down Beat Readers Poll from 1948 to 1952, and the Metronome contests as Top Male Vocalist from 1949 to 1954. He made his last recording, the Grammy nominated “Billy Eckstine Sings With Benny Carter,” in 1986. Eckstine died March 8, 1993. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2010. A Pennsylvania State Historical Marker in Pittsburgh honors Eckstine.
  • July 8, 1923 William Harrison Dillard, the second male to win Olympic Gold medals in both sprinting and hurdling events, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Shortly after entering Baldwin-Wallace College, Dillard was drafted into the United States Army where he served two years during World War II overseas in active combat. He returned to college in 1946 and earned his bachelor’s degree in economics. At the 1948 London Summer Olympic Games, Dillard won Gold medals in the 100-meter race and the 4 by 100-meter relay. At the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympic Games, he won Gold medals in the 110-meter hurdles and the 4 by 100-meter relay. Dillard won the 1955 James E. Sullivan Award as “the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.” He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1974. After retiring from track, Dillard worked for the Cleveland Indians baseball team and hosted a radio talk show. A life-sized bronze statue of Dillard was unveiled at Baldwin-Wallace April 18, 2015.
  • July 8, 1924 Johnnie Clyde Johnson, hall of fame blues piano player, was born in Fairmont, West Virginia. He began playing the piano at four. Johnson joined the United States Marine Corps during World War II and played in the all service jazz orchestra. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1952 and put together a jazz and blues group that eventually included Chuck Berry. Over the next twenty years, the two collaborated on many of Berry’s songs, including “School Days” (1957), “Carol” (1958), “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), and “Nadine” (1964). Johnson and Berry played and toured together until 1973. Johnson recorded his first solo album, “Blue Hand Johnnie,” in 1987 and his autobiography, “Father of Rock and Roll: The Story of Johnnie B. Goode Johnson,” was published in 1999. Johnson received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 2000 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Johnson died April 13, 2005. The Johnnie Johnson Blues & Jazz Festival is held annually in Fairmont in his honor.
  • July 8, 1938 Julia May Carson, the second African American woman elected to Congress from Indiana, was born in Louisville, Kentucky but raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. Carson attended Martin University and Indiana University but did not graduate. She was hired to do casework in the office of an Indiana congressman in 1965. She was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1972 and served until 1976 when she was elected to the Indiana Senate. Carson served in the senate for 14 years before being elected a trustee for Center Township responsible for running welfare in central Indianapolis. In her six years in that position, she turned a $20 million deficit into a $6 million surplus. Carson was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1996 and served there until her death December 15, 2007. During her time in Congress, she served on the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The Julia M. Carson Government Center in Indianapolis is named in her honor. A bust of Carson was unveiled at the Indiana Statehouse January 16, 2014.  
  • July 8, 1943 Alyce Faye Wattleton, the first African American and youngest president of Planned Parenthood, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Wattleton earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Ohio State University in 1964 and her Master of Science degree in maternal and infant care in 1967 from Columbia University. She was elected president of Planned Parenthood in 1978 and held that position until 1992. The American Humanist Association named her 1986 Humanist of the Year and she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1995, Wattleton co-founded and served as president of the Center for the Advancement of Women. She has received 14 honorary doctorate degrees and currently serves as managing director of a global professional services firm. Wattleton published her autobiography, “Life on the Line” in 1996.
  • July 8, 1997 Gloster Bryant Current, former deputy director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and minister, died. Current was born in 1913 in Indianapolis, Indiana but raised in Detroit, Michigan. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from West Virginia State College in 1941 and his Master of Arts degree in public administration from Wayne State University in 1950. Current joined the NAACP in 1936 as chair of the Detroit Youth Council Central Committee and was named the first executive director of the Detroit branch in 1941. During his tenure, he increased the membership to 24,500, the highest of any branch in the association. Current was named national director of branches and field administration in 1946. He held that position for 30 years and increased the number of branches from 500 to 1,700 and the number of members from 250,000 to 460,000. After retiring in 1976, Current became pastor of the Westchester United Methodist Church. The Gloster B. Current National Leadership Award is given annually by the NAACP to an African American who shows outstanding leadership skills.
  • July 8, 2002 Clarence Everett Lightner, the first elected African American Mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina and the first African American mayor of a metropolitan city in the South, died. Lightner was born August 15, 1921 in Raleigh. He earned his bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University and studied at Echols College of Mortuary Science. He served three years in the United States Army during World War II and after his discharge returned to Raleigh to co-manage the Lightner Funeral Home and Hillside Cemetery. He managed the funeral home for 45 years and also served as president of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association. He was elected to the Raleigh City Council in 1967 and served until 1973 when he was elected mayor. After one term, Lightner was appointed to the North Carolina Senate to complete the term of a state senator who had resigned. He served as chairman of the Southeast Raleigh Improvement Commission from 1993 to 2001. Lightner was awarded honorary doctorate degrees by Shaw University, Saint Augustine’s College, and North Carolina Central. The Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center and the Clarence E. Lightner Youth Leadership Academy in Raleigh are named in his honor.
  • July 8, 2010 David Harold Blackwell, the first African American inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, died. Blackwell was born April 24, 1919 in Centralia, Illinois. He entered the University of Illinois at 16 and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1938, Master of Arts degree in 1939, and his Ph. D. in mathematics in 1941. After earning his doctorate, he applied for a position at the University of California, Berkeley but was turned down because of his race. Therefore, from 1942 to 1954 he taught at Southern University, Clark College, and Howard University where he became the head of the mathematics department at 28. Blackwell was hired by the University of California, Berkeley in 1955 and became the first Black tenured faculty member. He won the 1979 von Neumann Theory Prize, awarded annually “to a scholar who has made fundamental, sustained contributions to theory in operations research and the management sciences.” Blackwell published over 90 papers and wrote “Theory of Games and Statistical Decisions” (1954) and the textbook “Basic Statistics” (1969). He was president of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in 1955. He also was vice president of the American Statistical Association, the International Statistical Institute, and the American Mathematical Society. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1965.

 

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