Today in Black History, 11/07/2015 | Lawrence Douglas Wilder - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/07/2015 | Lawrence Douglas Wilder

​November 7, 1989 Lawrence Douglas Wilder became the first African American elected governor of a United States state. Wilder was born January 17, 1931 in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Virginia Union University in 1951 and served in the United States Army during the Korean War where he earned a Bronze Star for heroism. Wilder earned his Juris Doctor degree from Howard University School of Law in 1959. He began his political career in 1969 by winning a special election for the Virginia State Senate where he served until he was elected lieutenant governor in 1985. During his tenure as governor, Wilder worked on crime and gun control initiatives and ordered state agencies and universities to divest themselves of any investments in South Africa because of its policy of apartheid in May, 1990, making Virginia the first southern state to take such action. Wilder left office in 1994 because of term limits and was elected Mayor of Richmond in 2004, a position he held until 2009. He serves as an adjunct professor in public policy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Wilder was awarded the 1990 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Government and Public Affairs, the Virginia Union University library, the Norfolk State University performing arts center, and a Hampton University dormitory are all named in his honor. Biographies of Wilder include "Hold Fast to Dreams: Doug Wilder's Life Story" (1989) and "Claiming the Dream: The Victorious Campaign of Douglas Wilder" (1990). Wilder published his memoir, "Son of Virginia: A Life in America's Political Arena," in 2015. 

November 7, 1775 Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation promising freedom to all enslaved Black men who escaped and fought for the British. Thousands of Black people escaped to the British, serving as orderlies, laborers, scouts and guides. Despite Dunmore's promise, the majority were not given their freedom. George Washington lifted the ban on Black men enlisting in the Continental Army in January, 1776 and at least 5,000 Black soldiers fought for the country in the American War of Independence. 

November 7, 1813 Joshua Bowen Smith, caterer and abolitionist, was born in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Smith moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1836 to work as a headwaiter. Several years later, he started his own catering business and over the next 25 years accumulated considerable wealth catering for Black abolitionist organizations and Union soldiers during the Civil War. Smith worked for the abolitionist cause throughout his life. He also provided jobs for Black people that had escaped enslavement. Smith was the first African American member of the Saint Andrew's Lodge of Freemasons of Massachusetts. He also represented Cambridge, Massachusetts in the state legislature from 1873 to 1874. Smith died July 5, 1879. 

November 7, 1841 The Creole Slave Ship Revolt occurred when Madison Washington led a group of 19 enslaved Black men to take over the brig named Creole which was transporting 135 Black people from Virginia to New Orleans. Washington successfully had the ship taken to Nassau, The Bahamas where they were freed by the British. Frederick Douglass based his 1853 novella "The Heroic Slave" on Washington. 

November 7, 1885 Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, radio and television evangelist and businessman, was born in Buckroe Beach, Virginia but raised in Newport News, Virginia. During World War I, Michaux won contracts to supply food to the defense department. He was ordained a preacher in the Church of Christ in 1918 and established the first Black Church of God in Hopewell, Virginia. Michaux was arrested for holding racially integrated baptisms in 1922 but was able to successfully defend himself and was acquitted. He began to broadcast over the radio in 1929 and had an audience of 25 million by 1932. He had established a network of seven churches and was publishing a monthly newspaper with a circulation of 8,000 by 1945. Michaux had an activist ministry that assisted the poor, provided food and shelter to the homeless, and assisted in finding employment for the unemployed. The church also built one of the largest privately owned housing developments for African Americans, the 594-unit Mayfair Mansions in Washington, D. C. The development was listed on the National Register of Historic Places November 1, 1989. Michaux died October 20, 1969. His biography, "About My Father's Business: The Life of Elder Michaux," was published in 1981. 

November 7, 1909 The Knights of Peter Claver, Inc. and Ladies Auxiliary, the largest African American lay Catholic organization, was founded in Mobile, Alabama by four Josephite priests and three Catholic laymen. The organization provides an opportunity for all parishioners to be actively involved in their faith by living the message, including support for organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the United Negro College Fund, and Xavier University in New Orleans. The Order is named after St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest who ministered to enslaved Africans in South America in the 1600s. Today the organization is active in 34 states and is a member of the worldwide International Alliance of Catholic Knights. 

November 7, 1909 Ruby Hurley, civil rights leader known as the "queen of civil rights," was born in Washington, D. C. Hurley graduated from Miner Teachers College and Robert H. Terrell Law School. She served on the committee that organized the 1939 concert by Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after she was barred from performing at Constitution Hall. Hurley joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1940 and served as national youth secretary from 1943 to 1950. The number of youth councils and college chapters increased from 86 to 280 during her tenure. She moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1951 to establish the first permanent NAACP office in the Deep South. She became regional secretary of the NAACP's Southeast Regional Office the next year and in that capacity assisted in the investigation of the murder of Emmett Till and the legal case of Autherine Lucy to attend the University of Alabama. Because of these activities and others, Hurley was forced to flee Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia in 1956. There, she established a NAACP regional office and continued her civil rights work. She retired in 1978. Hurley died August 9, 1980. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp with Hurley and Ella Baker in 2009. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP annually host the Ruby Hurley Image Awards. 

November 7, 1942 Lelia Foley-Davis, the first African American woman elected mayor of a city in the United States, was born in Taft, Oklahoma. At the time Foley-Davis ran for office, she was a divorced mother of five surviving on welfare. She was elected Mayor of Taft April 16, 1973. She lost the position in the 1980s but regained it in 2000 and continues to serve as mayor. Foley-Davis was named Oklahoma Woman of the Year in 1974 and was awarded a plaque by President Jimmy Carter as one of America's Ten Outstanding Women in 1975. 

November 7, 1946 Milton Lee Olive, III, the first African American Congressional Medal of Honor recipient of the Vietnam War, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Olive enlisted in the United States Army at 17 and was serving as a private first class in Vietnam by 1965. On October 22, 1965, his actions earned him the medal, America's highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, "Pfc. Olive was a member of the 3rd Platoon of Company B, as it moved through the jungle to find the Viet Cong operating in the area. Although the platoon was subjected to a heavy volume of enemy gunfire and pinned down temporarily, it retaliated by assaulting the Viet Cong positions, causing the enemy to flee. As the platoon pursued the insurgents, Pfc. Olive and four other soldiers were moving through the jungle together when a grenade was thrown into their midst. Pfc. Olive saw the grenade, and then saved the lives of his fellow soldiers at the sacrifice of his own by grabbing the grenade in his hand and falling on it to absorb the blast with his body. Through his bravery , unhesitating actions, and complete disregard for his safety, he prevented additional loss of life or injury to the members of his platoon." President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the medal to Olive's father April 21, 1966. The City of Chicago recognized him by naming Olive Park on Lake Michigan in his honor in 1979. The Milton L. Olive Middle School in Long Island, New York is also named in his honor. 

November 7, 1949 Vertner Woodson Tandy, architect and one of the founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, died. Tandy was born May 17, 1885 in Lexington, Kentucky. Tandy was one of the seven founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at Cornell University in 1906, the first African American Greek letter fraternity. He earned his bachelor's degree in architecture from Cornell in 1909 and became the State of New York's first Black registered architect. Tandy's most famous commission was Villa Lewaro, the mansion of millionaire Madam C. J. Walker, which was designated a National Historic Landmark May 11, 1976. Other works include the Ivey Delph Apartments, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places January 20, 2005, and St. Phillip's Episcopal Church. Tandy was also the first African American to pass the military commissioning examination and was commissioned first lieutenant in the New York State National Guard. A Kentucky Historical Marker honoring Tandy is located in Lexington. 

November 7, 1950 Alexa Irene Canady, the first African American female neurosurgeon, was born in Lansing, Michigan. Canady earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1971 and her Medical Degree, cum laude, in 1975 from the University of Michigan. She became the first Black female to enter the field of neurosurgery as a physician in training in 1976. Canady joined the staff of Children's Hospital of Michigan in 1983 and was head of the neurosurgery department and performing a dozen surgeries a week by 1987. Her areas of expertise included cranio-facial abnormalities, hydrocephalus, tumors of the brain, and congenital spine abnormalities. Canady began teaching at the Wayne State University Medical School in 1985 and became professor of neurosurgery in 1997. Canady retired in 2001. She was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1989 and was named Woman of the Year by the American Women's Medical Association in 1993. Canady was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by the University of Detroit-Mercy in 1997, an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Southern Connecticut in 1999, and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by Roosevelt University in 2014. 

November 7, 1977 Willis Richardson, playwright, died. Richardson was born November 5, 1889 in Wilmington, North Carolina but raised in Washington, D. C. Richardson staged his first play, "The Deacon's Awakening," in 1921. He was the first African American playwright to have a non-musical production on Broadway in 1923 with "The Chip Woman's Fortune." This was followed by "Mortgaged" (1923), "The Broken Banjo" (1925), and "Bootblack Lover" (1926). The last two plays were awarded the Amy Spingarn Prize for Art and Literature. Richardson edited the anthology "Plays and Pageants from the Life of the Negro" in 1930 and co-edited "Negro History in Thirteen Plays" in 1935. He was posthumously awarded the Audience Development Committee (AUDELCO) prize for his contribution to American theater. 

November 7, 1993 Adelaide Hall, jazz singer and actress, died. Hall was born October 20, 1901 in Brooklyn, New York. The daughter of a music teacher, she attended the Pratt Institute. She began her stage career in 1921 as a chorus girl in the Broadway musical "Shuffle Along." This was followed by appearances in a number of Black musicals, including "Chocolate Kiddies" (1925) and "Desires of 1927" (1927). Hall did several recordings with Duke Ellington in 1927 that were worldwide hits. She followed that with starring roles on Broadway in "Blackbirds of 1928" (1928) and "Brown Buddies" (1930). She embarked on a tour of the United States and Europe in 1931 and performed for an estimated one million people. Hall lived and performed in Paris, France from 1935 to 1938. She went to London, England in 1938 to star in "The Sun Never Sets" and remained there until her death. Hall was the first Black artist to have a long-term contract with the British Broadcasting Company, had her own radio series, and was one of the highest paid entertainers in the country. Her biography, "Underneath a Harlem Moon: The Harlem to Paris Years of Adelaide Hall," was published in 2003. 

November 7, 2006 Deval Patrick was elected the first African American Governor of Massachusetts and the second African American governor in the United States. Patrick was born July 31, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois. While in middle school, he was referred to A Better Chance, a national organization for developing leaders among academically gifted students of color. Patrick earned his Bachelor of Science degree in English and American literature from Harvard College in 1978 and his Juris Doctor degree 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. Patrick was appointed assistant attorney general in charge of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division in 1994. In this role, he ensured that federal laws banning discrimination were enforced. He also oversaw the investigation into a series of church bombings in the South. He returned to private law practice in Boston, Massachusetts in 1997 and served as executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Coca-Cola Company from 2000 to 2004. Patrick was reelected to a second term as governor in 2010. He did not seek reelection in 2014. During his time in office, he made achieving world-class public education and gun control major priorities. Patrick published his autobiography, "A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life," in 2011. The State of Illinois named a street near where Patrick grew up Deval Patrick Way in 2013 and he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University in 2015. 

November 7, 2011 Joseph Billy "Smokin' Joe" Frazier, hall of fame boxer, died. Frazier was born January 12, 1944 in Beaufort, South Carolina. He won the Gold medal in the heavyweight boxing division at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games and turned professional in 1965. He won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1970 and held the title until 1973. Frazier is most remembered for his three epic bouts with Muhammad Ali, including the "Thrilla in Manila. Frazier retired from boxing in 1976 with a record of 32 wins, 4 losses, and 1 draw. After retiring, Frazier trained fighters at his gym in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 and published his autobiography, "Smokin' Joe: The Autobiography of a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Smokin' Joe Frazier," in 1996.

The largest African American lay Catholic organization.

​The "Queen of civil rights."

​Led by Madison Washington. 

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