Today in Black History 07/16/2015 | Ida B. Wells - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History 07/16/2015 | Ida B. Wells

  •  July 16, 1882, Violette Neatley Anderson, the first African American woman admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, was born in London, England but raised in Chicago, Illinois. Anderson worked as a court reporter from 1905 to 1920 and this sparked her interest in the law. She earned her Bachelor of Laws degree from the Chicago Law School in 1920 and served as the first female city prosecutor in Chicago from 1922 to 1923. Anderson was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court January 29, 1926 but never argued a case before the court. In addition to her legal practice, Anderson was the first vice president of the Cook County Bar Association and was a member of the executive board of the Chicago Council of Social Agencies. She was also the eighth Grand Basileus of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Anderson died December 24, 1937.  
  • July 16, 1921 Robert Clayton Henry, the first African American mayor of an American city, was born in Springfield, Ohio. Henry earned his bachelor’s degree, with honors, from the Cleveland College of Mortuary Science and served in the United States Army during World War II. He opened the Robert C. Henry Funeral Home in 1951 and it continues to operate today. Henry was elected to the Springfield City Commission in 1961. He was appointed Mayor of Springfield by the commission in 1966 and served until 1968. After stepping down as mayor, he continued to serve on the commission until 1972. Henry served on fact-finding missions to Vietnam for President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and President Richard M. Nixon in 1970. Henry died September 8, 1981. A fountain in downtown Springfield is dedicated in his memory and a retirement home complex is named in his honor.

  • July 16, 1934 Donald Milford Payne, Sr., the first African American to represent New Jersey in Congress, was born in Newark, New Jersey. Payne earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies from Seton Hall University in 1957. He became the first Black president of the National Council of Young Men Christian Associations in 1970 and was chairman of the World YMCA Refuge and Rehabilitation Committee from 1973 to 1981. Payne served on the Newark Municipal Council from 1982 to 1988. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1988 and served until his death March 6, 2012. He was a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Payne was active on issues related to Africa and a leading advocate of education. President George W. Bush appointed Payne as one of two members of Congress to serve as Congressional delegates to the United Nations in 2003 and reappointed him to an unprecedented second term in 2005. A bronze statue of Payne was unveiled in Newark November 8, 2012. The Donald M. Payne, Sr. Global Foundation works “to continue the work of New Jersey’s first African American Congressman who used his global influence to work towards eradicating health and education disparities, promote peace and youth development, and uplifting the human condition worldwide.”

  • July 16, 1939 Denise LaSalle, hall of fame blues singer and songwriter, was born Ora Denise Allen near Sidon, Mississippi but raised in Belzoni, Mississippi. LaSalle began singing in church choirs. She moved to Chicago, Illinois in the early 1960s and recorded her first single, “A Love Reputation,” in 1967. Her first big hit was “Trapped by a Thing Called Love” in 1971 which reached number one on the national R&B charts and sold over a million copies. She followed that with the 1972 hits “Now Run and Tell That” and Man Sized Job.”  Albums by LaSalle include “On the Loose” (1973), “Rain and Fire” (1986), “Still Bad” (1995), “24 Hour Woman” (2010). LaSalle was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. She continues to perform.

  • July 16, 1946 Barbara Jean Lee, the first woman to represent California’s 9th congressional district, was born in El Paso, Texas. Lee was a single mother of two children receiving public assistance when she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Mills College and her Master of Social Work degree from the University of California in 1975. Lee served in the California State Assembly from 1990 to 1996 and the California State Senate from 1996 to 1998. She was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1998 and serves on the House Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on the Budget. Lee chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2009 to 2011.

  • July 16, 1968 Barry David Sanders, hall of fame football player, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Sanders played college football at Oklahoma State University from 1986 to 1988. In what many consider the greatest season in college football history, Sanders led the nation by averaging 7.6 yards per carry and over 200 yards per game in 1988. That year he set 34 National Collegiate Athletic Association records and won the Heisman Trophy as the year’s most outstanding player in college football. Sanders was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 1989 National Football League Draft and that year won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Over his 10 season professional career, Sanders was a ten-time All-Pro, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, and the 1997 co-NFL Most Valuable Player. Sanders retired in 1999. Sanders’ autobiography, “Barry Sanders: Now You See Him: His Story in His Own Words,” was published in 2003. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. Sanders is involved in several business ventures and is actively involved with the Boys and Girls Club and the Scleroderma Foundation.

  • July 16, 1979 Robert L. “Bob” Douglas, the “Father of Black Professional Basketball,” died. Douglas was born November 4, 1882 in Saint Kitts, British West Indies. He grew up in Harlem, New York and played amateur basketball. He organized his own team in 1923 and named them the Renaissance Big Five. The Rens barnstormed throughout the United States and played any team that would play them, Black or White. The Rens won the World Professional Basketball Tournament in 1939, lost to eventual champion Harlem Globetrotters in 1940, and finished second to the National Basketball League champion Minneapolis Lakers in 1948. Douglas owned and coached the team until 1949, compiling a record of 2,318 wins and 381 losses. The Renaissance Big Five was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1963, one of four teams inducted as a unit. Douglas was inducted in 1972 as a contributor, the first African American inducted. The New York Rens are enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

  • July 16, 1992 Junious “Buck” Buchanan, hall of fame football player, died. Buchanan was born September 10, 1940 in Gainesville, Alabama. He played college football at Grambling State University where he was a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American selection. Buchanan was the first player selected overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1963 American Football League Draft, the first Black number one draft choice in professional football history. Over his 13 season professional career, Buchanan was a six-time All-Pro. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. The Buck Buchanan Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding defensive player in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Football Championship Subdivision of college football.

  • July 16, 1994 Jasper Brown Jeffries, physicist and mathematician, died. Jeffries was born April 15, 1912 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from West Virginia State College (now University) in 1933 and his Master of Science degree in physical science from the University of Chicago in 1940. Jeffries worked at the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project that led to the development of the atomic bomb from 1943 to 1946. He served as chair of the physics department at North Carolina A&T University from 1946 to 1949 and was a senior engineer at the Control Instrument Company from 1951 to 1959. Jeffries was an assistant professor of mathematics at Westchester Community College from 1963 to 1971 when he was made chair of the department.

  • July 16, 1998 John Henrik Clarke, Pan-Africanist writer, historian and professor, died. Clarke was born January 1, 1915 in Union Springs, Alabama. Clarke moved to Harlem, New York in 1933 and joined study circles like the Harlem History Club and the Harlem Writers’ Workshop. He was a self-educated intellectual.  Clarke was co-founder of the Harlem Quarterly from 1949 to 1951, book review editor of the Negro History Bulletin from 1948 to 1952, and associate editor of Freedomways. He was a founder and the first president of the African Heritage Studies Association which supported scholars in history, culture, literature, and the arts. He was also a founding member of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters and the African-American Scholars’ Council. He was the founding chairman of the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in 1969. He also was the Carter G. Woodson Distinguished Visiting Professor of African History at Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center. Cornell named the John Henrik Clarke Library in his honor in 1985 and he was awarded the Carter G. Woodson Medallion by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1995. Clarke edited “Malcolm X: Man and His Times” in 1991.

  • July 16, 2006 Harold Russell Scott, Jr., actor, educator and the first Black artistic director of a major American regional theater, died. Scott was born September 6, 1935 in Morristown, New Jersey. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1957. Scott began his acting career the following year and appeared in “The Blacks,” “The Death of Bessie Smith,” and on Broadway in “The Cool World.” He won the 1959 Off-Broadway Theater Award (OBIE) for acting for his performance in “Deathwatch.” Scott made his Broadway directing debut in 1978 with “The Mighty Gents.” Other Broadway plays directed by him include “Suddenly Last Summer,” “Paul Robeson,” and “A Celebration of Lorraine Hansberry.” He directed his last play, “Yellowman,” just months before his death. Scott served as artistic director of the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park from 1972 to 1974. He also served as professor of theater arts and head of the professional directing program at the Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University.

  • July 16, 2008 Sherman Leander Maxwell, sportscaster and chronicler of Negro league baseball, died. Maxwell was born December 18, 1907 in Newark, New Jersey. He began his broadcasting career in 1929 doing a five-minute sports report on a radio station in Newark. It is believed by many historians that he was the first African American sportscaster. Maxwell also hosted a sports show called “Runs, Hits and Errors” and was the public address announcer for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Baseball League. Maxwell continued on radio and announcing games until his retirement in 1967. He also authored a book of interviews, “Thrills and Spills in Sports,” in 1940. Maxwell was known as someone who preserved records and scores of Negro league baseball that would have been lost without him. 
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