Today in Black History, 07/29/2015 | Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 07/29/2015 | Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

  • July 29, 1870 George “Little Chocolate” Dixon, hall of fame boxer and the first Black and first Canadian born fighter to win a world boxing championship, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Dixon’s professional boxing career spanned 1886 to 1906. He won the World Bantamweight Boxing Championship in 1890 and the World Featherweight Boxing Championship in 1891. He held the featherweight title for six years before losing it in 1897.  He regained the title in 1898 before losing it for good in 1900. Dixon retired with a record of 64 wins, 29 losses, and 51 draws. He is considered by many to be the greatest fighter of the 19th century. He is also credited with inventing shadow boxing. Dixon died penniless January 6, 1909. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. There is a recreation center named in his honor in Downtown Halifax.

  • July 29, 1900 Donald Matthew Redman, jazz musician, arranger and bandleader, was born in Piedmont, Virginia. Redman was playing the trumpet at three, had joined his first band at six, and was proficient on all wind instruments and the piano by twelve. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Storer College in 1920 and studied at the Boston Conservatory. He joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra in 1923 and began writing arrangements. Redman and his arrangements were important in the evolution of big band jazz. He joined McKinney’s Cotton Pickers as the musical director and bandleader in 1927. Redman formed his own band in 1931 and led them until disbanded in 1940. He then concentrated on freelance arranging for such musicians as Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Harry James. He served as music director for Pearl Bailey during the 1950s. Redman died November 30, 1964.

  • July 29, 1908 Grant Reynolds, minister, lawyer and civil rights activist, was born in Key West, Florida. Reynolds earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary in 1938 and became minister of a church in Cleveland, Ohio. He also served as president of the Cleveland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Reynolds became a United States Army chaplain in 1941 but resigned in 1944 to protest the racism he encountered during his service. He was appointed New York State Commissioner of Correction in 1944 and earned his law degree from Columbia Law School in 1948. Reynolds co-founded with A. Phillip Randolph the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training with Reynolds as national chairman in 1947. The committee threatened to organize a campaign to have African Americans resist the draft law. As a result, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 mandating “equal treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin” July 26, 1948. Reynolds was appointed counsel to the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1961 but lost the position in 1964 when he opposed the candidacy of Barry Goldwater for president. Reynolds practiced law until his death August 30, 2004.
     
  • July 29, 1909 Chester Bomar Himes, writer, was born in Jefferson City, Missouri. Himes was sent to prison for armed robbery in 1928. In prison, he wrote short stories and had them published in national magazines. His first stories were published in Esquire Magazine in 1934. Himes was released from prison in 1936 and began to produce novels in the 1940s.  Himes novels encompassed many genres and often explored racism in the United States. His best known works are “If He Hollers Let Him Go” (1945), “The Real Cool Killers” (1959), and “Cotton Comes to Harlem” (1965). “Cotton Comes to Harlem” was made into a movie of the same title in 1970 and his “For Love of Imabelle” (1957) was made into the film “A Rage in Harlem” in 1991. Himes won France’s Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, their most prestigious award for crime and detective fiction, in 1958. In 1969, fleeing oppression, Himes moved to Moraira, Spain where he died November 12, 1984. Himes produced two autobiographies, “The Quality of Hurt” (1973) and “My Life of Absurdity” (1976).

  • July 29, 1916 Charles Henry Christian, hall of fame swing and jazz guitarist, was born in Bonham, Texas but raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Christian was playing electric guitar and had become a regional attraction by 1936. He was hired by Benny Goodman for the newly formed Goodman sextet in 1939. Christian dominated the jazz and swing guitar polls by 1940 and was elected to the Metronome All-Stars. Christian died March 2, 1942. He was the first great soloist on the amplified guitar and many later guitarists were influenced by him, including Les Paul, Kenny Burrell, and Wes Montgomery. Christian was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1966 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Oklahoma City named a street in his honor in 2006.  Biographies of Christian include “Charlie Christian: Solo Flight-The Story of the Seminal Electric Guitarist” (2002) and “A Biography of Charlie Christian, Jazz Guitar’s King of Swing” (2005).

  • July 29, 1962 Tidjane Thiam, the first Black person to head a FTSE 100 (the 100 most highly capitalized companies in the United Kingdom) company, was born in Cote d’Ivoire. Thiam spent most of his childhood in Paris, France. He received an engineering degree from the Ecole Polytechnique in 1984 and a degree in civil engineering from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de Paris where he was top of his class in 1986. He earned his Master of Business Administration degree from INSEAD, an international graduate business school and research institution, in 1988. Thiam was appointed the head of the National Bureau for Technical Studies and Development for the government of Cote d’Ivoire in 1994 and became president of the National Council on Information Super highways and national secretary for Human Resources Development in 1997. He became Minister of Planning and Development in 1998 and oversaw the construction of the first privately financed power plant in Africa. Thiam was appointed finance director at Prudential plc in 2008 and a year later was named Chief Executive Officer. He was named the most influential Black man in the United Kingdom in 2010 and 2011. He was also included on Time magazine’s 2010 list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Thiam was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Legion d’honnour by the French government in 2011 for his significant contribution to civic life for more than 20 years. Thiam is a member of the Africa Progress Panel, an independent authority on Africa to focus world leader’s attention on delivering on their commitments to the continent. He is also a member of the board of 21st Century Fox and a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. Thiam left Prudential in 2015 to become Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse Group.     

  • July 29, 1978 Keeth Thomas Smart, the first American to be named the top-ranked fencer internationally, was born in Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager, Smart began taking fencing lessons at the Peter Westbrook Foundation as a teenager. He attended St. John’s University where he was the National Collegiate Athletic Association sabre fencing champion in 1997 and 1999 and earned his bachelor’s degree in finance. Smart also won the United States National Sabre Championship in 2002 and 2004. He became the first American to gain the sport’s number one international ranking in 2003. Smart competed at three Olympic Games, including the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games where he won a Silver medal as a member of the U. S. Sabre team, the first Olympic medal for a U. S. men’s team since 1948. Smart retired in 2008 as the fifth ranked sabre fencer in the world. He earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Columbia University in 2010 and currently works in finance.
     
  • July 29, 2003 Luther Henderson, arranger, composer, orchestrator and pianist, died. Henderson was born March 14, 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the Juilliard School of Music in 1942. From 1944 to 1946, Henderson served as staff orchestrator for the United States Navy School of Music from 1944 to 1946. He served as orchestrator, or arranger, or musical director, or composer on more than 50 Broadway musicals, including “Funny Girl” (1964), “No No Nanette” (1971), and “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music” (1981). Henderson was nominated for the 1992 Tony Award for Best Score for “Jelly’s Last Jam” and the 1997 Tony Award for Best Orchestration for “Play On!.” Henderson was posthumously designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor bestowed by the nation on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004. The Luther Henderson Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to students of color to pursue studies in orchestration, arranging and composition at the Julliard School.  

  • July 29, 2011 Matthew James Perry, Jr., the first African American from the Deep South appointed to the federal judiciary, died. Perry was born August 3, 1921 in Columbia, South Carolina. After serving in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1948 and his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1951 from South Carolina State College (now University). Perry served as chief counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s South Carolina Conferences of Branches and in that capacity argued hundreds of cases that helped desegregate schools, hospitals, restaurants, and other public places, including the integration of Clemson University in 1963. He also served for 16 years on the NAACP national board. Perry was appointed to the United States Military Court of Appeals in 1976, the second African American to serve on that court. He was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina in 1979, South Carolina’s first African American federal judge. He assumed senior status in 1995. The courthouse in Columbia is named in his honor.

  • July 29, 2011 An eight-foot tall statue of Charles Edward Anderson “Chuck” Berry was dedicated in St. Louis, Missouri. Berry was born October 18, 1926 in St. Louis. He made his first public performances while still in high school and was performing at popular clubs in East St. Louis, Illinois by early 1953. Berry recorded “Maybelene” in 1955 and it sold over a million copies and reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart and his song “Roll Over Beethoven” reached number 29 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in 1956. Berry was an established star with several hit records and film appearances by the end of the 1950s. After doing some time in prison, Berry resumed recording and placed six singles on the Billboard charts during 1964 and 1965. His “My Ding-a-Ling” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1952. At the request of President Jimmy Carter, Berry performed at the White House in 1979. Today, he performs periodically. Berry was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982, presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984, was in the first class of musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and received Kennedy Center Honors in 2000. In addition to “Maybelene” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” four other Berry recordings, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957), “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), and “Sweet Little Sixteen” (1958), are listed on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Berry published his autobiography, “Chuck Berry: The Autobiography,” in 1987. “Brown-eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry: An Unauthorized Biography” was published in 2002. Berry was named a Polar Music Prize laureate in 2014. 
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