Today in Black History, 11/08/2015 | Eartha Mary Magdalene White - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/08/2015 | Eartha Mary Magdalene White

November 8, 1876 Eartha Mary Magdalene White, businesswoman and philanthropist, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. After high school, White attended the National Conservatory of Music and became an opera singer with the Oriental American Opera Company, the first African American opera company. After traveling throughout the United States and Europe, she returned to Florida and taught for 16 years. White and her mother founded the Colored Old Folks Home in 1902 which became the Eartha White Nursing Home and is now Eartha M. M. White Health Care, Inc. White was a licensed real estate broker, owned a dry goods store, a taxi company, and a steam laundry and was the first female employee of the Afro American Life Insurance Company. It is estimated that she accumulated more than $1 million in assets during her lifetime, using most of it for her humanitarian work. These included the Clara White Mission to serve daily meals to the needy, the Boy's Improvement Club to reduce delinquency, establishing Mercy Tuberculosis Hospital, a halfway house for alcoholics in recovery, a home for unwed mothers, an orphanage and adoption agency, and a program for released prisoners to help re-enter society. White was awarded the Lane Bryant Award for Volunteer Service in 1970 and appointed to the President's National Center for Voluntary Action in 1971. White died January 18, 1974. The Eartha M. M. White Memorial Art and Historical Resources Center in Jacksonville was dedicated December 17, 1978. The Eartha M. M. White Legacy Fund "works to encourage and grow giving among African Americans in Jacksonville in order to strengthen and sustain resources and institutions that are important to the community." 

November 8, 1865 Decatur Dorsey received the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration. Dorsey was born enslaved in 1836 in Howard County, Maryland. During the Civil War, he joined Company B of the 39th United States Colored Infantry Regiment in 1864 and was promoted to corporal less than two months after joining. On July 30, 1864, he took part in the Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, Virginia. During the battle, White Union soldiers were trapped in a crater by Confederate forces. Dorsey's division was ordered in to reinforce the attack and rescue the trapped soldiers. His citation reads, "Planted the colors on the Confederate works in advance of his regiment, and when the regiment was driven back to the Union works he carried the colors there and bravely rallied the men." During a second assault, the men of the 39th breached the Confederate works and engaged in hand to hand combat, capturing two hundred prisoners before withdrawing. Dorsey was subsequently promoted to first sergeant. After the war, Dorsey married and lived in Hoboken, New Jersey where he died July 10, 1891. A Decatur Dorsey Maryland Civil War Marker is located in Ellicott City, Maryland. 

November 8, 1904 Horace Mann Bond, historian, college administrator and social science researcher, was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Bond earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, from Lincoln University in 1923 and his Master of Arts degree in 1926 and Ph. D. in education in 1936 from the University of Chicago. His dissertation on Black education in Alabama won the Rosenberger Prize in 1936 and was published in 1939. Bond taught at Langston, Fisk, and Dillard Universities while completing his doctorate. He was appointed the first president of Fort Valley State College (now University) in 1939 and served until 1945. Bond was appointed the first African American president of Lincoln University in 1945, a position he held until 1957. He provided research that helped support the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Bond later became dean of the School of Education and director of the Bureau of Educational and Social Research at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Bond died December 21, 1972. He authored several books, including "The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order" (1934) and "Education for Freedom: A History of Lincoln University" (1976). Bonds biography, "Black Scholar: Horace Mann Bond 1904-1972," was published in 1992. 

November 8, 1920 Esther Rolle, stage, film and television actress, was born in Pompano Beach, Florida. Rolle's earliest roles were on the stage, including "The Blacks" (1962), "Day of Absence" (1965), "Man Better Man" (1969), and "Don't Play Us Cheap" (1973). She is best known for her role as Florida Evans on the television situation comedies "Maude" (1972-1974) and "Good Times" (1974-1979). Rolle won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or Movie for her role in "Summer of My German Soldier" in 1979. She also appeared in the films "I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings" (1979), "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), and "My Fellow Americans" (1996). Rolle died November 17, 1998. 

November 8, 1938 Thomas Ernest "Satch" Sanders, hall of fame basketball player, was born in New York City. Sanders played college basketball at New York University where he was an All-American in 1960 and still holds the record for most rebounds in a season. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in marketing in 1960 and that same year was selected by the Boston Celtics in the National Basketball Association Draft. Sanders played his entire 13 season professional career with the Celtics and won eight championships. His teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones are the only NBA players with more championship rings. Sanders retired in 1973 and the Celtics retired his uniform number 16 the same year. He coached the Harvard University basketball team from 1973 to 1977 and the Celtics from 1977 to 1978. Sanders served as a NBA vice president and director of player development, where he designed programs for new and veteran players trying to make the transition into and out of professional basketball, until 2005. He served on the boards of the NBA Legends Foundation, NBA Retired Player Association, New York University, and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Sanders was presented the 2007 John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award which is given annually by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame "to an individual who has contributed significantly to the sport of basketball" and he was inducted into the hall as a contributor in 2011. He is currently a motivational speaker. 

November 8, 1947 Minnie Julia Riperton, singer and songwriter, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Riperton received operatic vocal training as a teenager and was urged to study the classics. However, she became interested in rhythm and blues. Riperton's first solo album, "Come to My Garden," was released in 1970 and although commercially unsuccessful is now considered a masterpiece by music critics. The album "Perfect Angel" was released in 1974 and included the single "Lovin' You" which went to the top of the charts in the United States and number two in the United Kingdom. Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976 and became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society in 1977. She was presented with the Society's Courage Award by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Her final album, "Minnie," was released in 1979 and it included the single "Memory Lane" which many consider her greatest work. Riperton died July 12, 1979. 

November 8, 1952 Alfre Ette Woodard, film and television actress, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Woodard earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater from Boston University in 1974. She began her acting career on the stage and had her breakthrough role in "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf" (1977). Woodard made her film debut in "Remember My Name" (1978). Other film appearances include "Cross Creek" (1983), for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, "Star Trek: First Contact" (1996), "Down in the Delta" (1998), "Beauty Shop" (2005), "Twelve Years a Slave" (2013), and "Mississippi Grind" (2015). She has also appeared in a number of television series, miniseries and movies for which she has been nominated for 18 Emmy Awards and won four, most recently the 2003 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her appearance in the television series "The Practice." Woodard won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for "Nelson Mandala's Favorite African Folktales." She is co-founder of Artists for a New South Africa, an organization dedicated to advancing democracy and equality, and serves on the board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. 

November 8, 1974 Ivory Joe Hunter, R&B singer, songwriter and pianist, died. Hunter was born October 10, 1914 in Kirbyville, Texas. He was a talented pianist by 13. He wrote and recorded his first song, "Blues at Sunrise," in the mid-1940s and it became a minor hit. His first R&B hits, "I Quit My Pretty Mama" and "Guess Who," were recorded in 1949 and he recorded "I Almost Lost My Mind" in 1950 and it topped the R&B charts. Hunter had recorded more than 100 songs by 1954. Hunter was also a prolific songwriter, writing more than 7,000 songs, including "My Wish Came True" and "Ain't That Loving You, Baby" which were recorded by Elvis Presley. 

November 8, 1999 Lester Bowie, hall of fame jazz trumpeter and composer, died. Bowie was born October 11, 1941 in Frederick, Maryland but raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He began studying the trumpet with his father who was a professional musician at five. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1966 and worked as a studio musician before forming the Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1968. They recorded 40 albums, including "Tutankhamun" (1969), "Urban Bushman" (1980), and "Urban Magic" (1997). He formed Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy in 1984 whose recordings include "I Only Have Eyes For You" (1985) and "The Fire This Time" (1992). Bowie lived and worked in Jamaica and Africa and recorded with Fela Kuti. In 2000, he was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. 

November 8, 2010 Mary Jane Manigault, seagrass basket maker, died. Manigault was born June 13, 1913 outside of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. She learned the craft of coiled basketry from her parents and was weaving baskets good enough to sell when she was a little girl. Manigault received a National Heritage Fellowship, the United States' highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984. Her baskets have been displayed at a number of museums, including the Santa Fe Folk Art Museum, the William Mathers Anthropology Museum at Indiana University, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History. 

November 8, 2012 A bronze statue of Donald Milford Payne, Sr., the first African American to represent New Jersey in Congress, was unveiled in Newark, New Jersey. Payne was born July 16, 1934 in Newark. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies from Seton Hall University in 1957. He became the first Black president of the National Council of Young Men Christian Associations in 1970 and was chairman of the World YMCA Refuge and Rehabilitation Committee from 1973 to 1981. Payne served on the Newark Municipal Council from 1982 to 1988. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1988 and served until his death March 6, 2012. He was a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Payne was active on issues related to Africa and a leading advocate for education. President George W. Bush appointed Payne as one of two members of Congress to serve as Congressional delegates to the United Nations in 2003 and reappointed him to an unprecedented second term in 2005. The Donald M. Payne, Sr. Global Foundation works "to continue the work of New Jersey's first African American Congressman who used his global influence to work towards eradicating health and education disparities, promote peace and youth development, and uplifting the human condition worldwide."

Singer, songwriter, and pianist.

Seagrass basket maker.

Film and television actress.

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