Today in Black History, 11/13/2015 | Albert C. Richardson - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/13/2015 | Albert C. Richardson

November 13, 1894 Albert C. Richardson of South Frankfort, Michigan received patent number 529,311 for the casket lowering device. Prior to his invention, caskets were simply buried in shallow graves or lowered with ropes into deeper graves. This required several people to work in unison to ensure that the casket was lowered evenly. Failure to do so would cause the casket to slip out the ropes and be damaged from hitting the ground. Richardson's invention consisted of a series of pulleys and ropes which ensured uniformity in the lowering process. The same concept is used today. Richardson created several other devices. He received patent numbers 255,022 for a hame fastner March 14, 1882, 446,470 for a butter churn February 17, 1891, 620,362 for an insect destroyer February 28, 1899, and 638,811 for an improvement in the design of the bottle December 12, 1899. Not much else is known of Richardson's life.

November 13, 1911 John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil, Negro Baseball League player and manager and the first African American to coach in the major leagues, was born in Carrabelle, Florida. O'Neil signed a contract with the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro American League in 1937. The next year, his contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs where he played first base for the next 12 seasons. O'Neil was named manager of the Monarchs in 1948 and served in that capacity for eight seasons. After resigning from the Monarchs in 1955, he became a scout for the Chicago Cubs and is credited with signing hall of famer Lou Brock to his first contract. He was named the first Black coach in the major leagues by the Cubs May 29, 1962. O'Neil became a scout for the Kansas City Royals in 1988 and was named 1998 Midwest Scout of the Year. O'Neil was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee from 1981 to 2000 and played an important role in the induction of six Negro league players. O'Neil led the effort to establish the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri in 1990 and served as its honorary board chair until his death October 6, 2006. O'Neil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush December 15, 2006. The Baseball Hall of Fame inaugurated the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and made O'Neil the first recipient. O'Neil's autobiography, "I Was Right on Time: My Journey from Negro Leagues to the Majors," was published in 1997. 

November 13, 1837 James Thomas Rapier, lawyer and politician, was born in Florence, Alabama. Rapier's father sent him to Canada in 1856 to further his education. There, he attended Montreal College where he studied law. He also attended the University of Glasgow and after returning to the United States Franklin College where he earned a teaching certificate in 1863. Rapier returned to Alabama in 1866 and was elected a delegate to the 1867 Republican state constitutional convention. His political involvement was unacceptable to some White people and the Ku Klux Klan drove him from his home in 1868 and forced him to remain in seclusion for a year. He returned to public life in 1870 and became the first African American to run for statewide office in Alabama, unsuccessfully running for secretary of state. He also became involved in the Black labor movement and was elected vice president of the National Negro Labor Union in 1870. Rapier was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1872 and pushed through a bill to make Montgomery, Alabama a port of delivery which was a significant boost to the city's economy. He also supported the passage of the 1875 Civil Rights Act. Rapier lost his bid for re-election in 1874 and became a collector for the Internal Revenue Service. He became disenchanted with opportunities for African Americans in the South by 1879 and purchased land in Kansas and became a leading advocate for Black emigration to the West. Rapier died May 31, 1883. "James T. Rapier and Reconstruction" was published in 1978. 

November 13, 1920 George Elliott Olden, the first African American to design a United States postage stamp, was born in Birmingham, Alabama but raised in Washington, D. C. While still in high school, Olden drew cartoons and served as art director for a Black biweekly magazine. Olden joined the CBS television network as art director in 1945. At the same time, he was invited to the conference that led to the establishment of the United Nations where he was selected graphic designer to the International Secretariat. While at CBS, Olden was the first artist to design news graphics and he supervised the vote tallying graphics of the first live presidential election coverage in 1952. He was also in charge of graphics for the most popular CBS television shows, including "The Ed Sullivan Show," "Lassie," "Face the Nation," and "Gunsmoke." Olden won the New York Art Directors Club medal in 1956. He left CBS in 1960 to join BBDO advertising agency and joined McCann-Erickson as a vice president and member of the Professional Advisory Council in 1963. Also in 1963, he was commissioned by the U. S. Postal Service to design a postage stamp commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation. The stamp featured a severed link in a large black chain against a blue background and went on sale August 19, 1963. Olden was one of seven African Americans included at a dinner given by U. S. Representative to the United Nations Adlai E. Stevenson, II honoring "Negroes prominent in the economic world" in 1964. He designed another U. S. postage stamp commemorating the Voice of America in 1967. Olden died January 25, 1975. He was posthumously awarded the American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal, which is awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services, or other contributions to the field of design and visual communication, in 2007. 

November 13, 1927 Albert Turner Bharucha-Reid, mathematician and educator, was born Albert Turner Reid in Hampton, Virginia. Bharucha-Reid published his first paper, on mathematical biology, at 18. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and biology from Iowa State University in 1949. He continued his studies at the University of Chicago but did not finish his Ph. D. because he thought it was a waste of time. Bharucha-Reid held teaching or research positions at a number of universities, including the University of Oregon, Wayne State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Atlanta University. He published nearly 70 papers and six books, including "Elements of the Theory of Markov Processes and Their Application" (1960), "Probabilistic Methods in Applied Mathematics" (1968), and "Random Polynomials, Probability and Mathematical Statistics" (1986). Bharucha-Reid also served as the editor of the Journal of Integral Equations until his death February 26, 1985. The National Association of Mathematicians host a lecture series in his name. 

November 13, 1930 Benny Andrews, painter, printmaker and educator, was born in Plainview, Georgia. After serving in the United States Air Force as a staff sergeant from 1950 to 1954, Andrews earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1958. He 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 died November 10, 2006. His 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 13, 1940 The United States Supreme Court ruled in Hansberry v. Lee that White people could not bar African Americans from White neighborhoods but did not rule that restrictive covenants based on race were void. It ruled for Hansberry on a legal technicality that Lee did not represent the entire class because a number of the homeowners (approximately 46%) disagreed with the covenant. Restrictive covenants based on race were completely outlawed by the U. S. Supreme Court in the case of Shelley v. Kraemer May 3, 1948. 

November 13, 1942 Leonard Roy Harmon, the first African American to have a navy ship named in his honor, died. Harmon was born January 21, 1917 in Cuero, Texas. He enlisted in the United States Navy in June, 1939 and in October of that year was assigned to the USS San Francisco. Harmon had advanced to mess attendant first class by 1942. On November 12, 1942, the Japanese began the battle of Guadalcanal by crashing a plane into the USS San Francisco, killing or injuring 50 men. The next day they raked the USS San Francisco with gunfire, killing nearly every officer on the bridge. Disregarding his own safety, Harmon helped to evacuate the wounded. He was killed while shielding a wounded shipmate from gunfire with his own body. For "extraordinary heroism," he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the highest medal that can be awarded by the U. S. Navy, by Secretary of the Navy William Frank Knox March 4, 1943. The USS Harmon, a destroyer escort named in his honor, was launched July 25, 1943. The destroyer was scrapped in 1967. The bachelor enlisted quarters at the U. S. Naval Air Station in North Island, California was named Harmon Hall in 1975. 

November 13, 1955 Whoopie Goldberg, actress, comedienne and activist, was born Caryn Elaine Johnson in New York City. Goldberg created "The Spook Show," a one woman show which ran on Broadway for 156 sold out performances and won her the 1985 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One Person Show, in 1983. She made her film debut in 1985 in the "Color Purple" which resulted in an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She played a psychic in the 1990 film "Ghost" and became the first Black female to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in nearly 50 years. Goldberg has appeared in over 150 films, including "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (1986), "Sister Act" (1992), "Kingdom Come" (2001), "For Colored Girls" (2010), and "Big Stone Gap" (2014). Goldberg was the first African American female to host the Academy Awards in 1994 and again hosted in 1996, 1999 and 2002. Goldberg is one of only a few performers to have won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, a Tony Award, and an Emmy Award. She received the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Vanguard Award for her work in supporting the gay and lesbian community in 1999 and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2001. Goldberg has been the co-host of the television show "The View" since September, 2007. Several biographies have been written about Goldberg, including "Whoopi Goldberg: From Street to Stardom" (1993) and "Whoopi Goldberg: Comedian and Movie Star" (1999). 

November 13, 1969 Ayaan Hirsi Ali, feminist activist and writer, was born in Mogadishu, Somalia but grew up in Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Ali obtained political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. She earned her Master of Arts degree in political science from Leiden University in 2000. She was elected to the Dutch House of Representatives in 2003 and served until 2006. While in parliament, Ali worked on furthering the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society and defending the rights of women in Dutch Muslim communities. She wrote the script and provided the voice-over for "Submission," a film which criticized the treatment of women in Islamic society, in 2004. The airing of the film resulted in the death of the producer and death threats against Ali. After resigning from parliament, Ali moved to the United States and is currently a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the Kennedy Government School at Harvard University. Ali has published a collection of essays, "The Caged Virgin" (2006), an autobiography, "Infidel" (2007), and a follow-up memoir to her autobiography, "Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations" (2010). She was included on Time magazine's 2005 list of 100 Most Important People in the World. Ali founded the AHA Foundation in 2007 "to protect and defend the rights of women and girls in the West from oppression justified by religion or culture." 

November 13, 1996 William Ballard "Bill" Doggett, jazz and R&B pianist and organist, arranger and composer, died. Doggett was born February 16, 1916 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He started playing the piano at nine and formed his first combo at 15. Doggett toured and recorded with several of the nation's top singers and bands over the next 20 years, including Johnny Otis, Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton. He also was the arranger and pianist for the Ink Spots for two years. Doggett formed his own trio in 1951 and switched to playing the organ. He recorded his best known single, "Honky Tonk, Pts. 1 & 2" in 1956. It sold four million copies and was number one on the R&B chart and number two on the Pop chart. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." Albums by Doggett include "Hot Doggett" (1956), "High And Wide" (1959), "Take Your Shot" (1969), and "The Right Choice After Hours" (1991).

The first African American to design a US postage stamp. 

Activist, actress, and comedienne.

The first African American to coach in major league baseball.

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