Today in Black History, 10/29/2015 | Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 10/29/2015 | Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education

• October 29, 1969 The United States Supreme Court decided in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education that "The obligation of every school district is to terminate dual school systems at once and to operate now and hereafter only unitary schools." In 1954's Brown v. Board of Education II, the Supreme Court had ordered that desegregation occur with "all deliberate speed." As a result, schools in the South were desegregating slowly if at all. The Alexander ruling stated that "all deliberate speed" was no longer permissible. 

• October 29, 1866 James Pierson Beckwourth, mountain man, fur trader and explorer, died. Beckwourth was born enslaved April 6, 1798 in Frederick County, Virginia. His owner emancipated him in 1824 and Beckwourth joined a fur trapping company on an expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains. He was captured by the Crow Indians in 1826 and for the next 8 or 9 years lived with them, rising in their society from warrior to chief. During the Mexican American War, Beckwourth served as a courier for the United States Army. He was credited for discovering what came to be called the Beckwourth Pass, a passage through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in 1850. Beckwourth began ranching in the Sierra in the mid-1850s and his ranch, trading post, and hotel were the starting settlement of what became Beckwourth, California. In recognition of his contribution to the city's development, the City of Marysville, California officially renamed the city's largest park Beckwourth Riverfront Park in 1996. Beckwourth published his autobiography, "The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians," in 1856. 

• October 29, 1870 Martha Minerva Franklin, hall of fame nurse and founder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, was born in New Milford, Connecticut. Franklin graduated from the Women's Hospital Training School in 1897, the only Black graduate in her class, and moved to New Haven, Connecticut in the early 1900s. After two years of investigating the nursing field, she determined that although Black nurses could join the American Nurses Association they were restricted from addressing the issues of segregation and discrimination. As a result, Franklin hosted a meeting of 52 Black nurses that resulted in the founding of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses August 25, 1908 with Franklin as president. The NACGN grew to an organization of 12,000 members from almost every state in the nation. Most of the groups aspirations had been met by 1951 and they merged with the American Nurses Association. Franklin continued with her education and became a registered nurse with the New York public school system. Franklin died September 26, 1968. She was posthumously inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 as one of the pioneers of the nursing field. 

• October 29, 1889 John Standard of Newark, New Jersey received patent number 413,689 for an improved oil stove that was used in places where space was limited. His invention provided attachments which enabled the cooking of a variety of foods at one time and could be used for buffet style meals on trains. Standard also received patent number 455,891 for an improved refrigerator design July 14, 1891. His refrigerator used a manually filled ice chamber for chilling. Not much else is known of Standard's life.

• October 29, 1916 Hadda Brooks, pianist, vocalist and television show host, was born Hattie L. Hapgood in Los Angeles, California. Brooks studied classical piano as a child. She began to play the piano professionally in the early 1940s and made her first recording, "Swingin' the Boogie," in 1945. Brooks appeared in a number of films during the late 1940s and early 1950s, usually as a lounge piano player and singer, including "Out of the Blue" (1947), "In a Lonely Place" (1950), and "The Bad and the Beautiful" (1952). She hosted "The Hadda Brooks Show" for 26 half-hour episodes in Los Angeles in 1957. Brooks was based in Australia where she hosted her own television show for most of the 1960s. She resumed her recording career in 1994 with the album "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere." This was followed by "Time Was When" (1996) and "I've Got News for You" (1999). She received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1993. Brooks died November 21, 2002. A documentary, "Queen of the Boogie," was released in 2007. 

• October 29, 1938 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, was born in Monrovia, Liberia. Johnson Sirleaf earned her bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1971. She served as assistant minister of finance from 1972 to 1973 and minister of finance for Liberia from 1979 to 1980. As a result of disagreements with the government in power, Johnson Sirleaf spent much of the 1980s and 1990s in exile. She returned to Liberia in 1996 and was elected President of Liberia in 2005, the first female head of state in Africa. She was included on Time magazine's 2006 list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. Johnson Sirleaf was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush November 5, 2007. She has also received honorary Doctor of Law degrees from several universities, including Indiana University and Yale University. Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize December 10, 2011 "for securing peace in Liberia, promoting economic and social development, and strengthening the position of women." She published her autobiography, "This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President," in 2009. Johnson Sirleaf was elected to a second five year term in 2011. She received the coveted 2012 Indira Gandhi Peace Prize from the Republic of India. Forbes magazine listed her number 70 on their 2014 list of The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World and number 96 on their 2015 list. 

• October 29, 1942 James Edward Orange, minister and civil rights activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. A year after graduating from high school, he was arrested for picketing a local store in 1962. This was the first of more than 100 arrests for picketing or other acts of civil disobedience. Orange was ordained a Baptist minister in 1967. He served as a project coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1965 to 1970. He later became a regional coordinator for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. While at the AFL-CIO, Orange worked on more than 300 labor organizing campaigns, including working with Cesar Chavez to organize the United Farm Workers. He also played a central role in South African voter registration and education prior to their 1994 election of President Nelson Mandela. Orange founded and served as general coordinator of the Martin Luther King, Jr. March Committee-Africa/African American Renaissance Committee in 1995 to coordinate commemorative events honoring King and promoted commercial ties between Atlanta, Georgia and other cities in the United States and South Africa. He helped organize the Immigrant Freedom Ride in 2003 in support of legal status for illegal immigrants. Orange died February 16, 2008. 

• October 29, 1945 Melba Moore, R&B singer and actress, was born Beatrice Melba Smith in New York City. Moore earned her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Montclair State Teacher's College and taught music for a year in the Newark public school system. She began her performing career in 1967 in the cast of "Hair." Moore won the 1970 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in "Purlie." She followed that performance with two successful albums, "I Got Love" (1970) and "Look What You're Doing to the Man" (1971). Other hits by Moore include "This Is It" (1976), "Love's Comin' At Ya" (1982), "Livin' For Your Love" (1984), and "Falling" (1986). Moore debuted her long-running one-woman show "Still Standing: The Melba Moore Story" in 1996. She appeared in the 2003 film "The Fighting Temptations." Her most recent album, "Forever Moore," was released in 2014. In addition to the Tony Award, Moore has been nominated for four Grammy Awards. 

• October 29, 1973 Vonetta Flowers, the first Black person to win a Gold medal at the Winter Olympic Games, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Flowers went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) on a track and field scholarship and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in physical education in 1995. She aspired to make the United States Summer Olympic team but after several failed attempts turned to making the Winter Olympic team as a bobsledder. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, she won a Gold medal in the two-woman bobsledding event. Flowers also competed at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, finishing sixth in the event. She retired from competition after the games. Flowers published her autobiography, "Running On Ice: The Overcoming Faith of Vonetta Flowers," in 2005. 

• October 29, 1986 Eva Beatrice Dykes, the first Black female to fulfill the requirements for a doctorial degree, died. Dykes was born August 13, 1893 in Washington, D. C. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, from Howard University in 1914. She then attended Radcliffe College where she earned her second Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in 1917 and her Master of Arts degree in 1918. She also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Dykes completed the requirements for her doctorial degree in 1921 but because Radcliffe held its graduation later than some other universities, she was the third Black woman to actually receive her Ph. D. Dykes taught English at Howard University from 1929 to 1942 and was chair of the English Department at Oakwood College from 1944 to her retirement in 1975. Dykes co-authored "Readings from Negro Authors for Schools and Colleges" in 1931 and authored "The Negro in English Romantic Thought: Or a Study in Sympathy for the Oppressed" in 1942. The Oakwood College library was named in her honor in 1973. 

• October 29, 1994 Pearl Primus, dancer, choreographer and anthropologist, died. Primus was born November 29, 1919 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College in 1940. Early in her career, Primus saw the need to promote African dance as an art form worthy of study and performance. She presented her first composition, "African Ceremonial," in 1943. She was the first dancer to present the African American experience within the framework of social protest in dances such as "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" (1944), "Strange Fruit" (1945), and "Hard Time Blues" (1945). Primus earned her Master of Arts degree in education in 1959 and her Ph. D. in dance education in 1978 from New York University. She created "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" about the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama church bombing in 1979. Primus served as professor of ethnic studies at the Five Colleges Consortium in Massachusetts from 1984 to 1990 and became the first chair of the Five Colleges Dance Consortium in 1990. President George H. W. Bush presented Primus with the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, July 9, 1991. Primus' biography, "The Dance Claimed Me: A Biography of Pearl Primus," was published in 2011. 

• October 29, 2011 The USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE-13) was launched by the United States Navy. The ship is a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship and is still in active service. The ship was named for Medgar Wiley Evers, army veteran and civil rights activist. Evers was born July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He was inducted into the United States Army in 1943 and fought in France during World War II and was honorably discharged in 1945 as a sergeant. Evers earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University) in 1952. Soon after, he moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi and became involved with the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. Evers was appointed Mississippi's first field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1954. He was involved in a boycott campaign against White merchants and was instrumental in desegregating the University of Mississippi. A couple of weeks before his death, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home and five days before his death he was nearly rundown by a car as he emerged from the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP office. Evers was assassinated June 12, 1963. Mourned nationally, Evers was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. He was posthumously awarded the 1963 NAACP Spingarn Medal. Byron De La Beckwith was arrested in 1964 and twice tried for Evers' murder. In both trials, all-White juries deadlocked on his guilt. Finally, De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder in 1994. Medgar Evers College was established as part of the City University of New York in 1969. A made-for-television movie, "For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story," was aired on PBS in 1983. The City of Jackson erected a statue in honor of Evers in 1992 and they changed the name of their airport to Jackson- Evers International Airport in 2004. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2009. Another statue of Evers was unveiled at Alcorn June 13, 2013. "The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero's Life and Legacy Revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches" was published in 2005.


Dr. Eva Beatrice Dykes​


First Black female to fulfill the requirements for a doctoral degree

Minister and Civil Rights Activist 

​Anthropologist, Choreographer, and Dancer

Today in Black History, 10/28/2015 | Lenny Wilkins
Today in Black History, 11/01/2015 | Ebony Magazin...

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