Today in Black History, 11/12/2015 | Sigma Gamma Rho - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/12/2015 | Sigma Gamma Rho

November 12, 1922 Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority was founded by seven school teachers on the campus of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. The aim of the sorority is to enhance the quality of life within the community with programs and activities, including public service, leadership development, and the education of young people. Today, there are more than 90,000 members with more than 500 undergraduate and alumnae chapters throughout the United States and around the world. Notable members include Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Alice Childress, Marilyn McCoo, and Victoria Rowell. 

November12, 1875 Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams, hall of fame comedian and the pre-eminent Black entertainer of his era, was born in Nassau, Bahamas. Williams moved to San Francisco, California to study civil engineering but instead joined a minstrel show. He formed the team of Williams and Walker with his partner George Walker in 1893 and they performed song and dance numbers, comic dialogues, and skits. They headlined the Koster and Bial's vaudeville house for 36 weeks in 1896 and popularized the cakewalk dance. Williams and Walker appeared in a succession of hit shows, including "Sons of Ham" (1900), "In Dahomey" (1902), which became the first Black musical to open on Broadway February 18, 1903, and "Abyssinia" (1906). Williams composed and recorded many songs, including "Nobody" which sold between 100,000 and 150,000 copies, a phenomenal total for the era. Walker was forced to leave their partnership due to ill health in 1909 and Williams joined the Ziegfeld Follies as the featured performer amid an otherwise all White show in 1910. By 1920, when 10,000 sales was considered a successful release, Williams had four songs that shipped between 180,000 and 250,000 copies and was one of the three most highly paid recording artists in the world. Williams died March 4, 1922. The U. S. Liberty ship SS Bert Williams was launched in his honor November 18, 1944 and he was posthumously inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1996. His recording of "Nobody" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1981 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." The many books about Williams include "Nobody: The Story of Bert Williams" (1970), "The Last Darky: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora" (2005), and "Introducing Bert Williams: Burnt Cork, Broadway, and the Story of America's First Black Star" (2008). HIs name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. 

November 12, 1896 Moses Williams received the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration, for his actions during an engagement in the foothills of the Cuchillo Negro Mountains in New Mexico during the Indian Wars. Williams was born October 10, 1845 in Carrollton, Louisiana. Not much is known of his early life but by August 16, 1881, he was serving as a first sergeant in Company I of the 9th Cavalry Regiment. His citation reads, "Rallied a detachment, skillfully conducted a running fight of 3 or 4 hours, and by his coolness, bravery, and unflinching devotion to duty in standing by his commanding officer in an exposed position under a heavy fire from a large party of Indians saved the lives of at least 3 of his comrades." Williams reached the rank of ordinance sergeant before leaving the army in 1898. Williams died August 23, 1899. 

November 12, 1909 Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, was born between Aberdeen and Houston, Mississippi. White started his career playing the fiddle at square dances. He recorded a number of singles in 1930, including "Jealous Man Blues" and "Mississippi Milk Blues." White was imprisoned from 1937 to 1940 but still managed to record some of his most popular recordings, including "Shak'em on Down" (1937) and "Po Boy" (1939). White did not record from the mid-1940s through the 1950s and worked as a laborer. He was rediscovered in 1963 and recorded the albums "Mississippi Blues" (1964), "Memphis Hot Shots" (1968), "Big Daddy" (1974), and "Country Blues" (1975). White died February 26, 1977. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1990 and his recording of "Fixin' to Die Blues" (1940) was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." 

November 12, 1911 Wilbur Dorsey "Buck" Clayton, jazz trumpeter and arranger, was born in Parsons, Kansas. Clayton started playing the piano at six and switched to the trumpet when he was a teenager. After high school, he moved to Los Angeles, California and formed a band. Clayton led a band in Shanghai, China from 1934 to 1937 and is credited with having a major influence on Chinese music. He played in the Count Basie Orchestra from 1937 to 1943 and served in the United States military from 1943 to 1946. He recorded seven albums as a leader, including "The Classic Swing of Buck Clayton" (1946), "Buck & Buddy" (1960), and "Buck Clayton All-Stars" (1961). Clayton had lip surgery in 1969 and had to quit playing the trumpet in 1972. He taught at Hunter College from 1975 to the early 1980s. He was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991. Clayton died December 8, 1991. His autobiography, "Buck Clayton's Jazz World," was published in 1986. 

November 12, 1941 The National Negro Opera Company was founded in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania by Mary Cardwell Dawson. The company had guilds in various cities in the northeastern United States and had a repertory that included "Aida," "La Traviata," "Carmen," and "Faust." The company ceased operations shortly after Ms. Dawson's death March 19, 1962. A Pennsylvania Historical Marker was dedicated at the location of the company September 25, 1994. 

November 12, 1944 Booker T. Jones, hall of fame instrumentalist, songwriter and arranger, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Jones was a child prodigy, playing the oboe, saxophone, trombone, piano and organ while in school. He began playing professionally at 16, playing saxophone on "Cause I Love You" by Rufus and Carla Thomas. While still in high school, he formed the group Booker T and the MG's and wrote their first hit, "Green Onions" in 1962. In addition, Jones co-wrote "I've Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)" for Eddie Floyd, "I Love You More Than Words Can Say" for Otis Redding, and "Born Under a Bad Sign" for Albert King. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in applied music from the University of Indiana in 1966. Jones was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album for "Potato Hole" and the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album for "The Road From Memphis." Jones received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1995. "Green Onions" was added to the National Recording Registry as a recording of "cultural, historical or aesthetical importance" and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." Jones received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance from the American Music Association in 2012. Also that year, he received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Indiana Jacobs School of Music. Jones released his most recent album, "Sound The Alarm," in 2013. 

November 12, 1944 Kenneth Ray Houston, hall of fame football player, was born in Lufkin, Texas. Houston played college football at Prairie View A & M University. He also ran track and was on the swim team. He was selected by the Houston Oilers in the 1967 American Football League Draft. During his 14 seasons as a professional defensive back, Houston was a 12-time All Pro and set an National Football League record with five touchdown returns in 1971. Houston retired in 1980 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. He was the defensive backfield coach for the Oilers from 1982 to 1985 and the defensive backfield coach for the University of Houston from 1986 to 1990. He has worked for the Houston Independent School District as a guidance counselor for children in hospitals, home bound, or placed in child care agencies by the State of Texas since 1990. Houston also serves on the advisory board of the Prairie View A & M Foundation. 

November 12, 1984 Chester Bomar Himes, writer, died. Himes was born July 29, 1909 in Jefferson City, Missouri. He was sent to prison for armed robbery in 1928. In prison, he wrote short stories and had them published in national magazines. His first stories were published in Esquire Magazine in 1934. Himes was released from prison in 1936 and began to produce novels in the 1940s. His novels encompassed many genres and often explored racism in the United States. His best known works are "If He Hollers Let Him Go" (1945), "The Real Cool Killers" (1959), and "Cotton Comes To Harlem" (1965). "Cotton Comes to Harlem" was made into a movie of the same title in 1970 and his "For Love of Imabelle" (1957) was made into the movie "A Rage In Harlem" in 1991. Himes won France's Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, their most prestigious award for crime and detective fiction, in 1958. Fleeing racial oppression in 1969, he moved to Spain where he died. Himes produced two autobiographies, "The Quality of Hurt" (1973) and "My Life of Absurdity" (1976). 

November 12, 1992 Charles "Honi" Coles, hall of fame tap dancer and actor, died. Coles was born April 2, 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He developed his high-speed rhythm tapping on the streets of his hometown. While dancing with the Cab Calloway band, he teamed with Charles "Cholly" Atkins to form Coles & Atkins in 1940. Their partnership lasted 19 years. Coles made his Broadway debut in the 1949 production of "Gentleman Prefer Blondes." He also appeared in "Bubbling Brown Sugar" in 1976. His performance in the 1983 production of "My One and Only" earned him both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He taught dance and dance history at Yale, Cornell, Duke, and George Washington Universities during the 1980s. Coles was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President George H. W. Bush July 9, 1991. He was posthumously inducted into the Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2003. 

November 12, 1994 Wilma Glodean Rudolph, hall of fame track and field athlete and the first American woman to win three Gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games, died. Rudolph was born June 23, 1940 in Clarksville, Tennessee. Despite a childhood filled with medical problems, she became an accomplished athlete by high school. In high school, she was a basketball star, setting state records for scoring and leading her team to the state championship. She was a member of the United States track and field team at 16 which won the Bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay at the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympic Games. At the 1960 Rome Summer Olympic Games, Rudolph won Gold medals in the 100 meter race, the 200 meter race, and the 4 x 100 meter relay. That same year, Rudolph was the United Press Athlete of the Year and Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year. She also won the 1961 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. She was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1974, the U. S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983, and the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1994. Rudolph published her autobiography, "Wilma: The Story of Wilma Rudolph," in 1977 and it was later turned into the NBC Television movie "Wilma." The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2004. The Woman's Sports Foundation Wilma Rudolph Courage Award is presented annually "to a female athlete that exhibits extraordinary courage in her athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as an inspiration and role model to those who face challenges, overcomes them and strives for success at all levels." A life size bronze statue of Rudolph was unveiled in Clarksville in 1996. A number of biographies of Rudolph have been published, including "Wilma Rudolph: The Greatest Woman Sprinter in History" (2004) and "Wilma Rudolph: A Biography" (2006). 

November 12, 1996 Nicodemus, Kansas, the only remaining western community established by African Americans, was designated a National Historic Site. The first settlers arrived in Nicodemus on June 18, 1877. The town was named for an individual that came to America on a slave ship and later purchased his freedom. Formerly enslaved people in the south were encouraged to settle in Nicodemus. The town was portrayed as a place for African Americans to establish Black self-governance. Nicodemus had a population of almost 500, a bank, two hotels, three churches, a newspaper, a drug store, and three general stores by 1880. However, the Union Pacific Railroad bypassed Nicodemus and established an extension six miles away and across the river in 1888. Businesses moved to the new extension and Nicodemus began to experience a long gradual decline. The decline was accelerated by the 1929 depression and the severe droughts from 1932 to 1934. The town was reduced to a population of 76 people by 1935. Today, approximately 20 people live in Nicodemus and the only remaining business is the Nicodemus Historical Society Museum. Annually, Emancipation Day is celebrated in Nicodemus the last weekend of July. 

November 12, 2000 Eugene Antonio Marino, the first African American archbishop in the United States, died. Marino was born May 29, 1934 in Biloxi, Mississippi. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Joseph's Seminary in 1962 and was ordained a priest that same year. Marino earned his Master of Arts degree from Fordham University in 1967. Following his graduation, he was spiritual director at St. Joseph's Seminary from 1968 to 1971 when he became vicar general of the Josephites. Marino was the auxiliary bishop for Washington, D. C. from 1974 to 1988 and served as secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1985, the first African American to hold that position. Marino was installed as the Archbishop of Atlanta May 5, 1988, the first African American archbishop in the United States. Marino resigned his post in 1990 but retained the title of archbishop. 

November 12, 2003 George "Buddy" Guy was presented the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, by President George W. Bush. Guy was born July 30, 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana. He began performing with bands in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the early 1950s and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1957. His career took off during the blues revival period of the late 1980s and early 1990s with albums such as "Breaking Out" (1988) and "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues" (1991). Guy is considered an important exponent of "Chicago blues" and has been called the bridge between the blues and rock and roll. He was an inspiration to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and many other guitarists. Guy has won six Grammy Awards for contemporary and traditional forms of blues music, 23 W. C. Handy Awards, more than any other artist, and Billboard magazine's The Century Award for distinguished artistic achievement. His album "Living Proof" won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Guy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and awarded Kennedy Center Honors in 2012. His autobiography, "When I Left Home: My Story," was published in 2012. His most recent album, "Born to Play Guitar," was released in 2015.

Founded in Pittsburgh, PA.

The first American woman to win 3 gold medal in a single Olympic game.

The last remaining western settlement founded by African Americans.

Today in Black History, 11/11/2015 | Daniel McCree
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