Today in Black History, 08/04/2015 | President Barack Hussein Obama II - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 08/04/2015 | President Barack Hussein Obama II

 August 4, 1961 Barack Hussein Obama II, the first African American President of the United States, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Obama earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a specialty in international relations from Columbia University in 1983. He worked as a community organizer for the Developing Communities Project from 1985 to 1988. He earned his Juris Doctor degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1991 and was elected the first Black president of the Harvard Law Review. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996 and served until 2004. That year, he was elected to the United States Senate where he served until elected President of the United States November 4, 2008. He was re-elected in 2012. Major accomplishments during his presidency include the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, and ending the war in Iraq. He was listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2005 and each year from 2007 to 2015. Obama has authored several books, including “Dreams From My Father” (1995) and “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” (2006). He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people” December 10, 2009.   

 

  • August 4, 1810 Robert Purvis, abolitionist, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Although Purvis and his brothers were three-quarters European by ancestry and inherited considerable wealth from their native English father, they chose to identify with the Black community and use their education and wealth to support the abolition of slavery and educational projects for the advancement of African Americans. Purvis helped abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison establish the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 and served as president of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society from 1845 to 1850. By his account, Purvis estimated that from 1831 to 1861 he helped one enslaved person per day escape to the North. He co-edited “The History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania” in 1883. Purvis died April 15, 1898. His biography, “But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis,” was published in 2007.
     
  • August 4, 1816 Macon Bolling Allen, the first African American to practice law in the United States and the first Black Justice of the Peace, was born Allen Macon Bolling in Indiana. Allen grew up a free man and learned to read and write on his own. He moved to Portland, Maine in the early 1840s. After passing the State of Maine bar exam and earning his recommendation, he was given his license to practice law July 3, 1844. However, because White people were unwilling to have a Black man represent them in court, Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1845. He passed the Massachusetts bar exam that year and he and Robert Morris, Jr. opened the first Black law office in the U. S. Allen passed another exam in 1848 to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County. After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina and was appointed Judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston in 1873. The next year, he was elected Judge Probate for Charleston County. Later, Allen moved to Washington, D. C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. Allen practiced law until his death June 11, 1894.
     
  • August 4, 1901 Louis Daniel “Satchmo” “Pops” Armstrong, hall of fame jazz trumpeter and singer, was born 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. Armstrong 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 died July 6, 1971. He was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1972 and 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 include “The Louis Armstrong Story, 1900 – 1971” (1971) and “Louis Armstrong: An American Genius” (1985).
     
  • August 4, 1913 Robert Hayden, the first African American Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress, was born Asa Bundy Sheffey in Detroit, Michigan. Hayden earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Detroit City College (now Wayne State University) in 1936 and his Master of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 1944. He published his first book of poetry, “Heart-Shape in the Dust”, in 1940. Other books of poetry include “A Ballad of Remembrance” (1962), which won the grand prize for poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Senegal in 1966, “Words in the Mourning Time” (1970), and “Angle of Ascent: New and Selected Poems” (1975). His work often addressed the plight of African Americans and was sometimes political, including a series of poems on the Vietnam War. He was appointed Consultant in Poetry (later renamed Poet Laureate) to the Library of Congress in 1976. Hayden taught at Michigan from 1944 to 1946, Fisk University from 1946 to 1969, and returned to Michigan from 1969 to his death February 25, 1980. Hayden received honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Brown University in 1976 and Fisk University in 1978. His biography, “From the Auroral Darkness: The Life and Poetry of Robert Hayden,” was published in 1984. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2012.  
     
  • August 4, 1931 Daniel Hale Williams, the first African American cardiologist in the United States, died. Williams was born January 18, 1856 in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Chicago Medical College (now Northwestern University Medical School) in 1883. He founded Provident Hospital, the first integrated hospital in the United States, and training school for nurses in Chicago, Illinois, May 4, 1891. Williams performed an operation on a man that had been stabbed in the chest July 9, 1893. The operation required that he open the man’s chest, and close the wound around the heart. This is often noted as the first successful surgery on the heart. He co-founded the National Medical Association for Black doctors in 1895. He became a charter member, and the only Black member, in the American College of Surgeons in 1913. Williams received honorary doctorate degrees from Howard University and Wilberforce University. Biographies of Williams include “Daniel Hale Williams: Negro Surgeon” (1968) and “Daniel Hale Williams: Open Heart Doctor” (1970). The Daniel Hale Williams Preparatory School of Medicine in Chicago is named in his honor.
     
  • August 4, 1938 Hayes Wendell Jones, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Starkville, Mississippi but raised in Pontiac, Michigan. He ran track for Eastern Michigan University where he won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships in the 110 meter and 220 meter hurdles. Jones also earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from EMU in 1961. He also won the Amateur Athletic Union 110 meter hurdle championships in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1963, and 1964. Jones won the 110 meter Bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Summer Olympic Games and the 110 meter Gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. He was also part of a 100 meter relay team that set a world record in 1961. After retiring from competition, Jones became a successful businessman and an active participant in community affairs. He served as director of the Oakland County, Michigan Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs from 2005 to 2006 and was general manager of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, the public transit operator serving suburban Detroit, Michigan, from 2007 to 2010. Jones has also served on the boards of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Pontiac School District. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Hayes Jones Community Center in Pontiac is named in his honor.
     
  • August 4, 1958 Gregory Foster, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Foster ran track for the University of California, Los Angeles where he was the National Collegiate Athletic Association outdoor champion in the 110 meter hurdles in 1978 and 1980 and the NCAA champion in the 200 meter race in 1979. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1981. Foster won ten United States national titles, four outdoors in the 110 meter hurdles and six indoors at shorter hurdle events. He broke the world indoor record for the 50 meter hurdles in 1985 and tied that mark in 1987. Foster won the Silver medal in the 110 meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. He was ranked among the top ten 110 meter hurdlers in the world 15 times, a record for a running event, and he was number one five times. Foster retired from competition in 1993 and was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1998. Foster is currently a sports agent representing track and field athletes.
     
  • August 4, 1996 Josiah Thugwane became the first Black South African to win an Olympic Gold medal when he won the marathon at the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games. Thugwane was born April 15, 1971 in Bethal, South Africa. He ran his first marathon in 1991 and won the 1995 Honolulu Marathon. Five months prior to the Atlanta Olympic Games, he was carjacked, shot, and injured his back when he jumped from the moving car. He recovered and won the Atlanta Marathon. Thugwane was named 1997 South African Sportsman of the Year. He also competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games but did not medal. Thugwane received the Order of the Ikhamanga (silver) for excellent achievement from President Jacob Zuma in 2011.
     
  • August 4, 1996 Willard Jesse Brown, hall of fame Negro Baseball League player, died. Brown was born June 26, 1915 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He began his professional baseball career in 1934. He joined the Kansas City Monarchs in 1936 and played with them until 1944 when he joined the United States Army during World War II. During that time, he established himself as a powerful hitter, hitting more home runs than Josh Gibson. In fact, Gibson nicknamed him “Home Run Brown.” Brown also regularly had a batting average over .350. He briefly played in the major leagues with the St. Louis Browns in 1947 and was the first Black player to hit a home run in the American League. Brown retired from baseball in 1956 and moved to Houston, Texas. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
     
  • August 4, 2005 Little Milton, hall of fame blues singer, guitarist and record producer, died. Milton was born James Milton Campbell, Jr. September 7, 1934 in Inverness, Mississippi. By 12, he had learned to play the guitar and was a street musician performing in clubs across the Mississippi Delta. He signed a contract in 1952 and recorded a number of singles that were not successful. Milton established Bobbin Records in 1958 and produced records for Albert King and Fontella Bass. He had his own first hit single in 1962 with “So Mean to Me.” This was followed by such hits as “We’re Gonna Make It” (1965), “Who’s Cheating Who” (1965), “Grits Ain’t Groceries” (1969), and “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number” (1983). Milton was the W. C. Handy Blues Entertainer of the Year and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1988. He received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1997.
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