Today in Black History, 11/10/2015 | Granville T. Woods - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/10/2015 | Granville T. Woods

November 10, 1891 Granville T. Woods was awarded patent number 463,020 for his invention of the Electric Railway System. His system eliminated overhead wires and exposed feeders and did not require conduits or openings in the street to connect with the main feeder. Woods was born April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio. He dedicated his life to developing a variety of improvements related to the railroad industry and controlling the flow of electricity. He and his brother formed the Woods Railway Telegraph Company in 1884 to manufacture and sell telephone and telegraph equipment. Woods was granted patent number 308,876 for a telephone transmitter, an apparatus that conducted sound over an electrical current December 2, 1884. His instrument improved on models then in use by carrying a louder and more distinct sound over a longer distance. He received patent number 373,915 for the synchronous multiplex railway telegraph which allowed communication between stations from moving trains November 29, 1887. In addition to these, Woods received more than 50 other patents and was known to many people of his time as "the Black Thomas Edison." Despite these inventions, Woods died virtually penniless January 30, 1910. The Granville T. Woods Math and Science Community Academy in Chicago, Illinois and a street in Brooklyn, New York are named in his honor. Woods was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006. "Granville T. Woods: African American Communications and Transportation Pioneer" was published in 2013.

November 10, 1828 Lott Cary, the first American Baptist missionary to Africa, died. Cary was born enslaved in 1780 in Charles City County, Virginia. He learned to read from the bible as a young man and later attended a school for enslaved youth. Because of his education, diligence, and valuable work, he was rewarded by his owner with small tips from the money he earned. Cary was able to purchase his freedom and that of his two children for $850 in 1813. That same year, he became an official Baptist minister. Cary led a missionary team to Liberia in 1821 and engaged in evangelism, education, and health care. He also established the first Baptist church in Liberia, the Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2001, and several schools. Cary became acting Governor of Liberia in August, 1828. Cary Street and the Carytown shopping district in Richmond, Virginia are named in his honor and the Lott Cary House was added to the National Register of Historic Places July 30, 1980. The Lott Cary Foreign Mission Convention helps churches extend their Christian witness to the end of the earth. "Biography of Elder Lott Cary, Late Missionary to Africa" was published in 1837.

November 10, 1912 James Ellis LuValle, Olympic athlete and scientist, was born in San Antonio, Texas but raised in Los Angeles, California. LuValle enrolled at the University of California at Los Angeles where he was the captain of the track and field team and nicknamed the "Westwood Whirlwind." He won the Bronze medal in the 400 meter race at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games. That same year, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry, Phi Beta Kappa. LuValle earned his Master of Arts degree in chemistry and physics from UCLA in 1937 and his Ph. D. in chemistry and mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 1940. LuValle joined the Eastman Kodak Company in 1941, the first African American to work in their laboratories. He subsequently worked on research projects at several other companies before 1975. His research on color photography resulted in patent numbers 3,219,445, 3,219,448, and 3,219,451, all issued November 23, 1965. LuValle was a laboratory administrator for the chemistry department at Stanford University from 1975 to his retirement in 1984. The new student center at UCLA was named LuValle Commons in 1985. LuValle died January 30, 1993.

November 10, 1919 Moise Kapenda Tshombe, Congolese politician, was born in Musumba, Congo. Tshombe founded the CONAKAT political party, which espoused an independent, federal Congo, in the 1950s. When the Congo became an independent republic August 16, 1960, CONAKAT won control of the Katanga provincial legislature. They declared Katanga's secession from the rest of the Congo and Tshombe was elected president. The United Nations forced Katanga to submit to Congolese rule and Tshombe went into exile in 1963. He returned to the Congo in 1964 to serve as prime minister in a coalition government. However, President Joseph Mobutu brought treason charges against Tshombe in 1965 and he was forced to flee the country again. Tshombe died under house arrest in Algeria June 29, 1969. His biographies include "Tshombe" (1967) and "The Rise and Fall of Moise Tshombe: A Biography" (1968).

November 10, 1933 Bobby Rush, hall of fame blues musician and singer, was born Emmit Ellis, Jr. in Homer, Louisiana. His family moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas around 1946 and he began to play in the local juke joints. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1953 and became part of the local blues scene. Rush released his first album, "Rush Hour," in 1979. Since then, he has released 25 albums, including "Handy Man" (1992), "Hoochie Man" (2001), which was nominated for the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album, "Raw" (2007), "Down in Louisiana" (2013), which was nominated for the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Blues Album, and "Decisions" (2014). Rush was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.

November 10, 1934 George Alexander McGuire, bishop and founder of the African Orthodox Church, died. McGuire was born March 26, 1866 in Sweets, Antigua. He was educated at the Antigua branch of Mico College for teachers and at the Moravian Miskey Seminary. He was pastor of a Moravian church in the Danish West Indies (now Virgin Islands) from 1888 to 1894. McGuire came to the United States in 1894, joined the Episcopal Church, and became an ordained priest in 1897. He became the church's highest ranking African American and the first to become an archdeacon when he was appointed Archdeacon for Colored Work in the Diocese of Arkansas in 1905 and served until 1909. As McGuire traveled though the U. S., he became discouraged by the dismal prospects for Black people in the Episcopal Church. He left the denomination in 1913 and returned to the West Indies. McGuire returned to the U. S. in 1918 and joined the Universal Negro Improvement Association and was appointed the first chaplain-general of the organization. McGuire founded the African Orthodox Church, which he envisioned as a home for Black people of the Protestant Episcopal persuasion who wanted ecclesiastical independence, in 1921. McGuire stated "You must forget the white gods. Erase the white gods from your hearts. We must go back to the native church, to our own true God." McGuire was elected archbishop of the church in 1924 and at the time of his death, the AOC claimed over 30,000 members and 30 churches on 3 continents.

November 10, 1939 Hubert Laws, Jr., jazz and classical flutist and saxophonist, was born in Houston, Texas. Laws began playing the flute in high school and was a member of the Jazz Crusaders at 15. He won a scholarship to the Julliard School of Music in New York City in 1960. Laws began recording as a bandleader in 1964. His recordings include "The Laws of Jazz" (1964), "Wild Flower" (1972), "Make It Last" (1983), and "Flute Adaptations of Rachmanivnov & Barber" (2009). Laws played with the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra from 1969 to 1972. He was named the number one flutist by Downbeat Magazine in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011. He has been nominated for three Grammy Awards and was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts, in 2011.

November 10, 1945 Frederick Clinton Branch became the first African American officer in the United States Marine Corps when he was commissioned a second lieutenant. Branch was born May 31, 1922 in Hamlet, North Carolina. He was attending Temple University when he was drafted into the army in 1943. He was chosen to become a marine and trained at Montford Point, North Carolina along with other African American marines (now known as the Montford Point Marines). Branch applied for officer candidate school but was initially denied. His subsequent performance earned him a recommendation and he was accepted into the school and was commissioned a second lieutenant. Following World War II, Branch left active duty for the reserves. He was reactivated during the Korean War before leaving the marines as a captain in 1955. Branch earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Temple in 1947 and after leaving the service established a science department at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania high school where he taught until his retirement in 1988. Branch received an honorary doctorate degree from Johnson C. Smith University in 1995 and a training building at the Marine Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia was named in his honor in 1997. Branch died April 10, 2005. The marines established the Frederick C. Branch Leadership Scholarship in 2006 as a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship for students attending one of 17 historically Black colleges and universities that have NROTC programs on campus.

November 10, 1960 Andrew T. Hatcher became the first African American associate press secretary to the President of the United States. Hatcher was born June 19, 1923 in Princeton, New Jersey. He served in the U. S. Army from 1943 to 1946, rising to the rank of second lieutenant. After leaving the army, he moved to San Francisco, California where he became a journalist for the San Francisco Sun Reporter, an African American newspaper. Hatcher also served as a speechwriter for Adlai E. Stevenson, II during his two unsuccessful campaigns for the presidency during the 1950s. He was appointed California assistant secretary of labor in 1959. Hatcher served as a speechwriter for John F. Kennedy during his 1960 campaign for the presidency. After winning the election, Kennedy appointed Hatcher associate press secretary. Hatcher resigned the position after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1964. Hatcher received an honorary doctorate degree from Miles College in 1962 and was one of the founders of One Hundred Black Men of America in 1963. Hatcher died July 26, 1990.

November 10, 1963 Michael Anthony Powell, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Powell attended the University of California at Los Angeles and at the 1991 World Championships in Athletics broke the 23 year old long jump world record. His record still stands. That year, he won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. Powell won Silver medals in the long jump at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games. He retired from track and field in 1996 and has been an analyst for Yahoo! Sports Olympic Track and Field coverage. He also coaches the long jump and is a motivational speaker. Powell was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2005.

November 10, 1967 Ida Cox, blues singer and "The Uncrowned Queen of the Blues, died. Cox was born February 26, 1896 in Toccoa, Georgia. She began touring with the White and Clark's Black & Tan Minstrels at 14. Cox was considered one of the best solo acts on the Theater Owners' Booking Association circuit by the early 1920s. Between 1923 and 1929, Cox recorded 78 songs, including "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues" and "Death Letter Blues." She and her husband formed their own revue, "Raisin' Cane" in 1929 with Cox as the star. They later changed the name to "Darktown Scandals" and toured until 1939. Cox continued to tour until she was forced to retire in 1945 due to a stroke. She lived quietly until being rediscovered and recording the album "Blues For Rampart Street" in 1961. After that recording, she lived quietly until her death.

November 10, 1967 Michael Jai White, the first African American to portray a comic book superhero in a major motion picture, was born in Brooklyn, New York but raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut. White started martial arts training at eight and currently holds seven different black belts. He attended several colleges and had a number of majors before becoming a junior high school teacher. He taught emotionally disturbed children for three years. He moved to Los Angeles, California in 1992 to pursue an acting career. His first major starring role was in the 1995 HBO television movie "Tyson." White portrayed the title character in the 1997 movie "Spawn," the first time an African American had portrayed a comic book superhero in a major film. His performance earned him a nomination for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Best Male Newcomer. Other films in which he has appeared include "Exit Wounds" (2001), "The Dark Knight" (2008), "Why Did I Get Married Too?" (2010), and "Falcon Rising" (2014). White currently stars in the TBS/OWN television series "Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse."

November 10, 1994 Carmen Mercedes McRae, jazz singer, composer, pianist and actress, died. McRae was born April 8, 1920 in Harlem, New York. She began studying the piano at eight. She played piano with a number of jazz greats while in her twenties, including Benny Carter, Count Basie, and Mercer Ellington. McRae recorded her self-titled debut album in 1954 and that same year was voted Best New Female Vocalist by Down Beat Magazine. Other albums by McRae include "After Glow" (1957), "For Once in My Life" (1967), and "Sarah: Dedicated to You" (1990). McRae considered Billie Holliday to be her primary influence and recorded an album in her honor in 1983 entitled "For Lady Day" which was released in 1995. McRae was nominated for seven Grammy Awards and is considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century. She was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor that the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994.

November 10, 1995 Kenule "Ken" Beeson Saro-Wiwa, author, businessman and environmental activist, was hanged by the Nigerian military. Saro-Wiwa was born October 10, 1941 in Bori, the Niger Delta, Nigeria. During the Nigerian Civil War, he was a supporter of the federal cause against the Biafrans. His best known books, "Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English" (1986) and "On a Darkling Plain" (1989), document his experiences during the war. Saro-Wiwa began devoting most of his time to human rights and environmental causes in 1990. He was one of the earliest members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People which advocated for increased autonomy for the Ogani people, a fair share of the proceeds from oil extraction, and remediation of environmental damage to Ogani land. Saro-Wiwa was arrested in May, 1994 and accused of incitement to murder, imprisoned for over a year, and found guilty in 1995. The trial and execution was criticized around the world and resulted in Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for three years. Saro-Wiwa's diary, "A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary," was published two months after his execution. His biography, "In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son's Journey to Understand His Father's Legacy," was published in 2005. A memorial to Saro-Wiwa was unveiled in London November 10, 2006.

November 10, 1999 The USCGC Healy, a United States Coast Guard research icebreaker, was commissioned. The vessel was named in honor of Captain Michael Augustine Healy and is still in active service. Healy was born enslaved September 22, 1839 near Macon, Georgia. Although three-quarters European, he was considered enslaved and could not be formally educated in Georgia. Therefore, his father sent him North for education. While in England, Healy signed on to an American East Indian clipper in 1854 as a cabin boy. He quickly became an expert seaman and rose to the rank of officer. He returned to the United States in 1864 and was accepted as a third lieutenant in the Revenue Cutter Service (now the U. S. Coast Guard).He attained the rank of captain in 1880 and was given command of the USRC Thomas Corwin in 1882, the first person of African ancestry to command a U. S. government ship. For the next twenty years, Healy was the federal government's law enforcement presence in the Alaskan territory. Healy died August 30, 1904. His biography, "Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy: From American slave to Arctic hero," was published in 2009. "Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920" was published in 2003.

November 10, 2005 Wynton Learson Marsalis was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President George W. Bush. Marsalis was born October 18, 1961 in New Orleans, Louisiana. At eight, he was performing traditional New Orleans music in the church band and at 14 was invited to perform with the New Orleans Philharmonic. While in high school, he was also a member of the New Orleans Symphony Brass Quintet. Marsalis moved to New York City in 1978 and in 1980 joined the Jazz Messengers. Throughout the 1980s, Marsalis led several jazz bands of his own and in 1987 co-founded and became artistic director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center program, a position that he continues to hold. In 1983, Marsalis became the first musician to win Grammy Awards for both a jazz and a classical recording. In total, he has won nine Grammy Awards, including the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for "Listen to the Storyteller." In 1997, his "Blood on the Fields" became the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Since Hurricane Katrina, Marsalis has been active in raising money and awareness to rebuild New Orleans. In 2011, he, his father, and brothers were designated as a group NEA Jazz Masters, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts. Marsalis was included on Time magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2006. He has toured 30 countries and 5 million copies of his recordings have been sold worldwide. Marsalis has received more than 30 honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities, including Brown University, Columbia University, Bard College, and Northwestern University.

November 10, 2005 James Anderson DePreist was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President George W. Bush. DePreist was born November 21, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied composition at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He won the Gold medal at the Dimitris Mitropoulos International Conducting Competition in 1962. He then became assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic during the 1965-1966 season. DePreist made his European debut in 1969 with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. He was permanent conductor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra from 2005 to 2008. As a guest conductor, he appeared with every major North American orchestra and had more than 50 recordings to his credit. DePreist was director emeritus of conducting and orchestral studies at the Julliard School and laureate director of the Oregon Symphony when he died February 8, 2013. DePreist published two books of poetry, "The Precipice Garden" (1987) and "The Distant Siren" (1989). He was awarded 13 doctorate degrees and was an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

November 10, 2006 Benny Andrews, painter, printmaker and educator, died. Andrews was born November 13, 1930 in Plainview, Georgia. After serving in the United States Air Force as a staff sergeant from 1950 to 1954, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1958. Andrews had his first New York City solo art show in 1962. He co-founded the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition in 1969 to protest the fact that no African Americans were involved in organizing the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit "Harlem on my Mind." Andrews was director of visual arts for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1982 to 1984 and was instrumental in forming the National Arts Program in 1983, the largest coordinated visual arts program in the nation's history. Andrews taught at Queens College, City University of New York from 1968 to 1997 and created a prison art program that became a model for the nation. He went to the Gulf Coast in 2006 to work on an art project with children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Andrews' works are in the collections of many museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the High Museum of Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

November 10, 2006 Gerald Edward Levert, singer, songwriter and producer, died. Levert was born July 13, 1966 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but raised in Cleveland, Ohio. While in high school, he formed the group LeVert in 1984. Four of the group's seven albums, "I Get Her" (1985), "Bloodline" (1986), "The Big Throwdown" (1987), and "Just Coolin'" (1988) sold more than one million copies. Levert released his first solo album, "Private Line," in 1991 and it went to number one on the R&B charts. Other solo albums by Levert include "Groove On" (1994), "Gerald's World" (2001), and "Voices" (2005). Levert joined the group LSG in 1997 and they released "Levert-Sweat-Gill" (1997) and "LSG2" (2003). Levert was nominated for four Grammy Awards and posthumously won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance for "In My Songs" which was released after his death. His book "I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep It Real About Love, Fatherhood, Family, and Friendship" was published in 2007.

November 10, 2007 Augustus Freeman Hawkins, the first African American to represent California in Congress, died. Hawkins was born August 31, 1907 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of California in 1931. He was elected to the California State Assembly in 1935 and served until 1963. That year, Hawkins was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he authored legislation to establish the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Job Training Partnership Act, the School Improvement Act, and the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act. Hawkins authored more than 300 state and federal laws over his career. He was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He retired from Congress in 1991. The Augustus F. Hawkins Natural Park and Augustus F. Hawkins Mental Health Center in Los Angeles, California are named in his honor.

November 10, 2008 Zenzile Miriam Makeba, singer and civil rights activist, died. Makeba was born March 4, 1932 in Johannesburg, South Africa. She began her professional singing career in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers before she formed her own group, The Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional South African melodies. Makeba appeared in an anti-apartheid documentary "Come Back, Africa" in 1959 and her South African passport was revoked by the government in 1960. After testifying against apartheid before the United Nations in 1963, her South African citizenship and right to return to the country were revoked. Makeba and Harry Belafonte won the 1966 Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording for "An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba" which dealt with the political plight of Black South Africans under apartheid. Other albums by Makeba include "The Magic of Makeba" (1965), "Eyes on Tomorrow" (1991), and "Reflecting" (2004). Makeba published her autobiography "Makeba: My Story" in 1987 and starred in the movie "Sarafina" in 1992. Makeba won the Dag Hammarskjold Peace Prize in 1986 and was awarded the Gold Otto Hahn Peace Medal in 2001 "for outstanding service to peace and international understanding."

​The first African American Associate Press Secretary to the president of the United States.

The first African American to portray a comic book superhero in a major motion picture.

Singer and civil rights activist.

30 Americans & Jean Michel Basquiat, The Wright's ...
Today in Black History, 11/11/2015 | Daniel McCree

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