Today in Black History, 07/31/2015 | Dorothy Edwards Brunson - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 07/31/2015 | Dorothy Edwards Brunson


  • July 31, 1831 Susan J. Tompkins Garnet, the first African American female school principal in the New York public school system, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Garnet received her early education from her grandmother, who ran a school in the attic of her home, and became a teacher’s assistant at 14. She began teaching at the African Free School of Williamsburg in 1854. Garnet was appointed principal of Grammar School Number 4 April 30, 1863, a position she held until her retirement in 1900. Garnet was also the founder of the Equal Suffrage League in the late 1880s and served as superintendent of suffrage for the National Association of Colored Women. She also served as a delegate to the inaugural Universal Races Congress in 1911. Garnet died September 17, 1911.



  • July 31, 1874 Patrick Francis Healy was named president of Georgetown University, the first person of African American ancestry to be president of a predominantly White college. Healy was born enslaved February 27, 1830 in Macon, Georgia. Although he was at least three-quarters European in ancestry, he was legally considered a slave and Georgia law prohibited the education of enslaved people. Therefore, Healy’s father arranged for him to move north to obtain an education. Healy graduated from the College of Holy Cross in 1850 and entered the Jesuit order. The order sent him to Europe to study in 1858 because his African ancestry had become an issue in the United States. He earned his doctorate degree from the University of Leuven in Belgium, the first American of African descent to earn a Ph. D. Healy was ordained to the priesthood September 3, 1864, the first Jesuit priest of African descent. Healy returned to the U. S. in 1866 and began teaching at Georgetown. During his tenure as president, he helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century. He modernized the curriculum and expanded and upgraded the schools of law and medicine. He also oversaw the construction of Healy Hall which was declared a National Historic Landmark December 23, 1987. He left the college in 1882. Healy died January 10, 1910. The Georgetown Alumni Association established the Patrick Healy Award in 1969 to recognize people who have “distinguished themselves by a lifetime of outstanding achievement and service to Georgetown, the community and his or her profession.” Patrick Francis Healy Middle School in East Orange, New Jersey is named in his honor. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.



  • July 31, 1903 St. Luke Penny Savings Bank was founded by Maggie Lena Walker, the first African American woman to establish and serve as president of a bank in the United States, in Richmond, Virginia. She started the bank because White banks would not accept deposits from Black people or organizations. The bank had loaned money to purchase 600 homes by 1920. The bank merged with two other Black owned banks in Richmond in 1930 to become the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. The bank continues to operate today, as the oldest continuously operating minority-owned bank in the country, with $76.2 million in assets.



  • July 31, 1907 Roy Milton, hall of fame blues singer and bandleader, was born in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Milton moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and began performing in the late 1920s. He moved to Los Angeles, California in 1933 and formed his own band. Milton recorded his first hit, “R. M. Blues” in 1945 and it reached number 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and number 20 on the Pop chart. Through the late 1940s and early 1950s, he had 19 Top Ten R&B recordings, including “Hop, Skip And Jump” (1948), “Information Blues” (1950), and “Best Wishes” (1951). He continued to record through the 1970s but the rise of rock and roll negatively impacted on his sales. Milton died September 18, 1983. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.



  • July 31, 1916 Warren Q. Marr II, co-founder of the Amistad Research Center, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Marr studied journalism and printing at Wilberforce University. After graduating, he worked for The Plaindealer newspaper in Kansas City, Kansas from 1939 to 1942, rising to the position of assistant editor. Marr joined the staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1968 and served as editor of The Crisis magazine from 1974 to 1980. He co-founded the Amistad Research Center in 1966 as a repository for African American papers and other artifacts. The center currently houses more than 10 million items. Marr helped found Amistad Affiliates, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of a replica of the schooner La Amistad as a floating museum and educational center, in 1991. After years of construction, the ship has sailed to ports around the world promoting peace and goodwill. Marr died April 20, 2010.



  • July 31, 1918 Henry “Hank” Jones, hall of fame jazz pianist, bandleader and composer, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi but raised in Pontiac, Michigan. Jones studied piano at an early age and was performing in Michigan and Ohio by 13. He moved to New York City in 1944 and was accompanist for Ella Fitzgerald from 1948 to 1953. He was staff pianist for CBS studio from 1959 to 1975 and backed guests like Frank Sinatra on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Jones recorded prolifically as an unaccompanied soloist, in duos with other pianist, and with various small ensembles. His recordings include “Bop Redux” (1977), “I Remember You” (1977), “Steal Away” (1995), and “Round Midnight” (2006). He was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989 and received the Jazz Living Legend Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 2003. Jones was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President George W. Bush November 17, 2008 and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2009. He was nominated for five Grammy Awards and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. Jones died May 16, 2010.



  • July 31, 1921 Whitney Moore Young, Jr., civil rights leader, was born in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky. Young earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Kentucky State University in 1941 and his Master of Arts degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1947. Young served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1945, rising to the rank of first sergeant. Young became executive director of the National Urban League in 1961 and served there until his death. During that time, he worked to end employment discrimination in the United States and turned the NUL from a relatively passive civil rights organization into one that aggressively fought for equitable access to socioeconomic opportunity for the historically disenfranchised. He also expanded the organization from 38 employees to 1,600 and the annual budget from $325,000 to $6,100,000. He also served as the president of the National Association of Social Workers from 1969 to 1971. Young was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Lyndon B. Johnson January 20, 1969.  Young drowned while swimming in Lagos, Nigeria March 11, 1971. Hundreds of schools and other sites are named in his honor. In addition, Clark Atlanta University named its School of Social Work in his honor and the Boy Scouts of America created the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1981. The Whitney M. Young Birthplace and Boyhood Home in Simpsonville, Kentucky was designated a National Historic Landmark April 27, 1984. Young authored “To Be Equal” in 1964 and “Beyond Racism: Building an Open Society” in 1969. His biography, “Whitney M. Young, Jr. and the Struggle for Civil Rights,” was published in 1989.



  • July 31, 1931 Kenneth Earl Burrell, jazz guitarist, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Burrell began playing guitar at 12 and while still a student at Wayne State University made his debut recording as a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s sextet in 1954. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition and theory from Wayne in 1955 and the next year moved to New York City. Burrell has recorded about 40 albums as leader, including “Midnight Blue” (1967), “Soft Winds” (1993), “Lotus Blossom” (1995), “Lucky So and So” (2001), “Be Yourself: Live at Dizzy’s” (2010), “Tenderly” (2011), and “Special Requests (and Other Favorites)” (2013). He was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the United States bestows upon a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005. Besides continuing to perform, Burrell is the founder and director of the jazz studies program at the University of California, Los Angeles as well as president emeritus of the Jazz Heritage Foundation.



  • July 31, 1954 Flora Jean “Flo” Hyman, hall of fame volleyball player, was born in Inglewood, California. Hyman was 6 feet 5 inches in height by 17. She attended the University of Houston as that school’s first female scholarship athlete and was a three-time All-American volleyball selection. Hyman was a member of the United States volleyball team that won the Silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. She was the most famous volleyball player of her time with a spike that traveled up to 110 miles per hour. Hyman died January 24, 1986, while playing in Japan, from an aortic dissection resulting from previously undiagnosed Marfan Syndrome. The Women’s Sports Foundation established the annual Flo Hyman Award in 1987 which is given “to a female athlete who captures Hyman’s dignity, spirit and commitment to excellence” and she was posthumously inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 1988.



  • July 31, 1956 Deval Laurdine Patrick, the first African American Governor of Massachusetts, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Patrick earned his Bachelor of Science degree, cum laude, in English and American literature from Harvard College in 1978 and his Juris Doctor degree, with honors, from Harvard Law School in 1982. He worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund from 1984 to 1986 and was in private practice from 1986 to 1994. He served as assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division from 1994 to 1997 and worked on issues including racial profiling, fair lending enforcement, and discrimination based on gender and disability. Patrick was appointed chairman of Texaco Corporation’s Equality and Fairness Task Force in 1997 to oversee implementation of the terms of a race discrimination settlement at Texaco. After serving in that capacity for two years, he was appointed vice president and general counsel for the company. He worked as executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for the Coca Cola Company from 2000 to 2004. Patrick was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010. He did not seek re-election in 2014 and returned to private practice. Patrick published his autobiography, “A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life,” in 2011. The State of Illinois named a portion of Wabash Avenue in Chicago Duval Patrick Way in 2013.



  • July 31, 1966 Earl Rudolph “Bud” Powell, hall of fame jazz pianist, died. Powell was born September 27, 1924 in New York City. Powell learned classical piano at an early age but became interested in jazz by eight and was playing in his brother’s band by 15. His debut recording was with Cootie Williams’ band in 1944. He made his debut recording as a leader with the 1947 album “Bud Powell Trio.” Other albums by Powell include “The Amazing Bud Powell” (1951), “Blues in the Closet” (1956), and “Bud Powell in Paris” (1963). Many people referred to him as “the Charlie Parker of the piano.” Powell suffered from mental illness throughout his later life. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1966. His biography, “Dance of the Infidels: A Portrait of Bud Powell,” was published in 1986 and was the basis for the movie “Round Midnight” (1986).



  • July 31, 1974 Jonathan Phillip Ogden, hall of fame football player, was born in Washington, D. C. Ogden participated in track and field as well as football at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was a unanimous first-team All-American and won the Outland Trophy as the best college football interior lineman in 1995. He won the 1996 National Collegiate Athletic Association indoor track championship in the shot put. He also earned his bachelor’s degree in business economics. Ogden was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the 1996 National Football League Draft and over his 12 season professional career was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. Ogden retired from football after the 2007 season. He was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s. Ogden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. He established the Jonathan Ogden Foundation in 1996 to benefit inner city schools and help student-athletes take responsibility for their futures through lessons learned on the playing field, in the classroom, and throughout their local communities.



  • July 31, 1986 Theodore Shaw “Teddy” Wilson, hall of fame jazz pianist, died. Wilson was born November 24, 1912 in Austin, Texas but raised in Tuskegee, Alabama. He studied piano and violin at Tuskegee Institute. Wilson joined the Benny Goodman Trio in 1935 the first Black musician to perform in public with a previously all-White group. He recorded 50 hit records with various singers, including Lena Horne and Billie Holliday. His albums include “I Got Rhythm” (1956), “Pres and Teddy” (1956), and “With Billie in Mind” (1972). Wilson was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the United States bestows upon jazz artists, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986 and was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1987. He is considered one of the most influential jazz pianist of his time.


  • July 31, 2011 The Chicago White Sox unveiled a life sized bronze statue of Frank Edward Thomas, Jr. on the outfield concourse of U. S. Cellular Field. Thomas was born May 27, 1968 in Columbus, Georgia. He played baseball at Auburn University and was selected by the White Sox in the 1989 Major League Baseball Draft. He made his major league debut in 1990 and over his 19 season professional career was a five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and American League Most Valuable Player in 1993 and 1994. He won the American League batting title in 1997 and was named American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2000. Thomas is also the only major league player in history to have seven consecutive seasons with a .300 batting average and at least 100 walks, 100 runs, 100 runs batted in, and 20 home runs. Thomas retired from baseball in 2010 and the White Sox retired his uniform number 35 that year. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. Thomas currently serves as founder and chief executive officer of W2W Records.
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