Today in Black History, 11/06/2015 | Derrick Albert Bell, Jr. - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/06/2015 | Derrick Albert Bell, Jr.

November 6, 1930 Derrick Albert Bell, Jr., the first tenured African American professor of law at Harvard University and the originator of Critical Race Theory, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Bell earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Duquesne University in 1952. After serving in the United States Army in Korea from 1952 to 1954, Bell earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1957. After graduating, he joined the Civil Rights Division of the U. S. Justice Department. Bell was asked to resign his membership in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1959 because it was thought that his objectivity might be compromised. Rather than give up his membership, he quit the job. He then joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund where he supervised more than 300 school desegregation cases, including leading the effort to secure admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi. Bell was hired to teach at Harvard Law School in 1969 and became their first Black tenured professor in 1971. He became dean of the University of Oregon School of Law in 1980 but resigned in 1985 over a dispute about faculty diversity. He returned to Harvard in 1986 but took an extended leave in 1990 over hiring practices at the university. He then became a visiting professor at New York University. Bell died October 5, 2011. Bell authored several books, including "Race, Racism and American Law" (1973) and "The Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism" (1992). 

November 6, 1746 Absalom Jones, abolitionist and clergyman, was born enslaved in Milford, Delaware. Jones had bought his and his family's freedom by 1785. Together with Richard Allen, he was one of the first African Americans licensed to preach by the Methodist Church. They founded the Free African Society, conceived as a non-denominational mutual aid society to help newly freed enslaved people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1787. Jones founded the African Church of Philadelphia in 1792 and it opened its doors July 17, 1794 as the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first Black church in Philadelphia. Jones was ordained as the first African American priest in the Episcopal Church in 1804. Jones died February 13, 1818. He is listed on the Episcopal calendar of saints and blessed under the date of his decease. The Absalom Jones Episcopal Center at the Atlanta University Center and the Absalom Jones Senior Center in Wilmington, Delaware are named in his honor. 

November 6, 1814 William Wells Brown, abolitionist, novelist, playwright and historian, was born enslaved near Lexington, Kentucky. He successfully escaped to freedom January 1, 1834. Brown served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad from 1836 to 1845 ferrying escaping previously enslaved people to Canada. Brown was one of the most prolific writers of his time. He published "Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself" in 1847. His first novel, "Clotel, or, The President's Daughter: a Narrative of Slave Life in the United States," is credited as being the first novel written by an African American. Brown is also credited as the first published African American playwright having written "Experience: or, How to Give a Northern Man a Backbone" (1856) and "The Escape: or, A Leap for Freedom" (1858). Brown also wrote several historical works including "The Black Man: His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements" (1863) and "The Negro in the American Revolution" (1867). Brown died November 6, 1884. The William Wells Brown Elementary School and the William Wells Brown Community Center in Lexington are named in his honor. "William Wells Brown: clotel & Other Writings" was published in 2014. 

November 6, 1858 Samuel Eli Cornish, evangelist, social activist and journalist, died. Cornish was born in 1795 in Sussex County, Delaware. He was ordained in the New York Presbytery as an evangelist in 1822 and over the next 25 years served several churches. He also was a member of the executive committee of the New York City Vigilance Committee, vice president of the American Moral Reform Society, and editor of The Colored American. He and John Russwurm started Freedom's Journal, the first African American newspaper in the United States, March 16, 1827. The first issue of the journal stated, "We wish to plead our own cause. Too long others have spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations in things that concern us dearly." Cornish was a co-founder of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. 

November 6, 1880 George Coleman Poage, the first African American to win a medal at the Olympic Games, was born in Hannibal, Missouri but raised in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1899, Poage was the first African American to graduate from La Crosse High School in 1899 and was the best athlete and salutatorian of his class. The following year, he became the first Black athlete to run at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Poage earned his bachelor's degree in history from the university in 1903 and returned the next year for graduate studies. He was the first African American Big Ten Conference individual track champion in 1904, winning the 440-yard dash and the 220-yard hurdles. That same year, Poage won the Bronze medals in the 220-yard and 440-yard hurdles at the St. Louis Summer Olympic Games. After the Olympics, Poage taught high school English for ten years before joining the United States Postal Service in 1924 where he served as a postal clerk for nearly 30 years. Poage died April 11, 1962. "George Coleman Poage: The La Crosse, Wisconsin Years: 1885-1904" was published in 1985. 

November 6, 1888 Robert N. Hyde of Des Moines, Iowa received patent number 392,205 for a composition for cleaning and preserving carpets. His composition consisted of one gallon of distilled water, a half-pound of pulverized borax, two pounds of soluble soap, six ounces of aqua-ammonia, two ounces of bay-rum, a half-ounce of oil of sassafras, and two ounces of alcohol. One part of the composition was mixed with two parts distilled water, heated, and applied to the carpet. This combination cleaned the carpet and preserved it from moths. Nothing else is known of Hyde's life.  

November 6, 1892 James Sidney Hinton, the first Black member of the Indiana State Legislature, died. Hinton was born December 25, 1834 in North Carolina. He moved with his parents to Terre Haute, Indiana in 1848 and worked as a barber. When the Civil War started, he volunteered for the Union Army, was promoted to second lieutenant, and actively recruited other African Americans. After the war, he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana and was elected a delegate to the 1872 Republican National Convention. Hinton was later appointed a trustee of Indiana's Wabash and Erie Canal Fund, the first African American to hold a state office. He was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1880 and served one term. Throughout his political career, Hinton continued to work as a barber. A bust of Hinton was unveiled at the Indiana Statehouse January 16, 2014. 

November 6, 1901 Juanita Hall, musical theater and film actress, was born in Keyport, New Jersey. After receiving classical training at Julliard School, she became a leading Broadway performer. She performed the role of Bloody Mary, a Pacific Islander, in the musical "South Pacific" for 1,925 performances on Broadway. She was the first African American to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in the play in 1950. She reprised the role in the 1958 film version of "South Pacific." She also performed on Broadway in "Flower Drum Song" as a Chinese American. Hall died February 28, 1968. 

November 6, 1919 Charles "Chuck" Green, hall of fame tap dancer, was born in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Green started dancing as a child and would stick bottle caps on his bare feet and tap dance on the streets for money. He was brought to New York City to study tap dancing at nine. Green formed a partnership with childhood friend James Walker and called themselves Chuck and Chuckles. They toured the United States, Europe, and Australia through the 1930s and early 1940s. The act broke up when Green was committed to a mental institution in 1944. He was released in 1959 and returned to performing on stage and television. He continued to perform through the 1980s and began teaching a weekly tap class in 1987. Green died March 7, 1997. He was posthumously inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2003. 

November 6, 1947 George Lawrence "Larry" James, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Mount Pleasant, New York. James started running track in the seventh grade and was a double medalist at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympic Games, winning the Silver medal in the 400 meter race and the Gold medal as part to the 4 by 400 meter relay team which set a world record which lasted until 1992. James earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Villanova University in 1970 and became dean of Athletics and Recreational Programs and Services at Richard Stockton College in 1972, a position he held for 28 years. James earned his Master of Arts degree in public policy from Rutgers University in 1987. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2003. James died November 6, 2008. The soccer and track and field stadium at Richard Stockton College is named in his honor. 

November 6, 1969 Colson Whitehead, author and educator, was born in New York City. Whitehead earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1991. He published his first novel, "The Institutionist" in 1999 and Esquire magazine named it the best first novel of the year. Other books by Whitehead include "The Colossus of New York" (2003), "Sag Harbor" (2009), and "The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky & Death" (2014). Whitehead has taught at a number of institutions, including Princeton University, Brooklyn College, and the University of Wyoming. He received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur "Genius" Award in 2002. 

November 6, 1972 Thandiwe Adjewa "Thandie" Newton, actress, was born in Zambia but raised in London, England. Newton earned her bachelor's degree in anthropology from Cambridge University in 1994. She made her film debut in "Flirting" (1991) and gained international recognition for her role as Sally Hemings in the film "Jefferson in Paris" (1995). Since that time she has been very active, appearing on the screen regularly in films including "Beloved" (1998), "Mission Impossible II" (2000), "Crash" (2004), "The Pursuit of Happiness" (2006), "W" (2008), "For Colored Girls" (2010), and "Half of a Yellow Sun" (2013). 

November 6, 1998 Stan Wright, hall of fame track and field coach, died. Wright was born August 11, 1921 in Englewood, New Jersey. He earned his bachelor's degree from Springfield College and his master's degree in education from Columbia University. Wright began his coaching career at Texas Southern University in 1950. The TSU "Flying Tigers" became nationally known for their success at major track meets. Wright served as head coach at Western Illinois University from 1967 to 1969 and held the same position at Sacramento State University from 1969 to 1979. He also served as athletic director at Fairleigh Dickinson University from 1979 to 1985. At the request of the United States State Department, Wright coached the Singapore track team at the 1962 Asian Games and Malaysia at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. He became the first Black head coach of a U. S. national track team in 1966 and was assistant coach in charge of sprinters for the U. S. Olympic team in 1968 and 1972. Wright also served as chairman of The Athletic Congress Budget and Finance Committee from 1980 to 1989 and treasurer from 1989 to 1992. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1993. His biography, "Stan Wright, Track Coach: Forty Years in the Good Old Boy Network-The Story of an African American Pioneer," was published in 2005. 

November 6, 1998 The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark District. The site commemorates the contributions of African American airmen during World War II. The field was named for former Tuskegee Institute principal Robert Russa Moton. It was the only flight training facility for African American pilot candidates in the United States Army Air Corps. More than 1,000 Black aviators were trained for the war effort between 1941 and 1945. Moton Field was closed in 1946. The Hangar One Museum is located at the site and is open to the public.

​Was listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The First African American member of the Indiana State Legislature. 

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