Today in Black History, 11/16/2015 | Agbani Asenite Darego - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/16/2015 | Agbani Asenite Darego

November 16, 2001 Ibiagbanidokibubo Agbani Asenite Darego was crowned Miss World, the first Sub-Saharan African to win the title. Darego was born December 12, 1982 in Abonnema, Nigeria and as a teenager longed to be a model. She was crowned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 2001. After her reign as Miss World, she signed with a model management company and is currently promoting Arik Airlines. Darego earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from New York University in 2012. 

November 16, 1873 William Christopher "W. C." Handy, hall of fame blues composer and musician, was born in Florence, Alabama. Handy received a teaching degree from Huntsville Teachers Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1892. He became band master of Mahara's Colored Minstrels at 23 and toured throughout the United States and Cuba over the next three years. He taught music at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (now Alabama A&M University) from 1900 to 1902. He returned to leading bands in 1903 and touring with the Knights of Pythias which he led for the next six years. The 1912 publication of his "Memphis Blues" sheet music was credited as the inspiration for the foxtrot dance step and many consider it the first blues song. By 1917, Handy had also published "Beale Street Blues" and "St Louis Blues" by 1917. Bessie Smith's recording of "St Louis Blues" with Louis Armstrong is considered one of the finest recordings of the 1920s. Handy authored "Blues: An Anthology – Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs," which was the first work to record, analyze, and describe the blues as an integral part of the history of the United States, in 1926. He wrote four other books, including his autobiography "Father of the Blues: An Autobiography." Handy died March 28, 1958. That same year, a movie about his life titled "St Louis Blues" was released. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1969. He was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983, awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010. Streets in New York, Tennessee, and Alabama are named in his honor and the W. C. Handy Music Festival is held annually in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 

November 16, 1899 Lorenzo Johnston Greene, historian, educator and author, was born in Ansonia, Connecticut. Greene earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in 1924 and his Master of Arts degree in history in 1926 and Ph. D. in history in 1942 from Columbia University. He served as field representative and research assistant to Carter G. Woodson, director of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, from 1928 to 1933 and taught history at Lincoln University from 1933 to 1972. Greene co-authored with Woodson "The Negro Wage Earner" in 1930 and co-authored "The Employment of Negroes in the District of Columbia" in 1931. He also authored "The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776" in 1942 and co-authored "Missouri's Black Heritage" in 1980. He also served as editor of the Midwest Journal from 1947 to 1956. Greene actively worked on educational issues in Missouri and led efforts to desegregate public schools in Kansas City, Missouri. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Missouri in 1971. Greene died January 24, 1988. His "Working with Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, a Diary, 1928-1930" was published posthumously that same year. 

November 16, 1901 Jesse Stone, hall of fame R&B musician and songwriter, was born in Atchison, Kansas. Stone had formed a group, The Blue Serenaders, and cut his first record, "Starvation Blues" by 1926. He worked as the bandleader at the Apollo Theater for a few years beginning in 1936 and was the musical director for the all-female band, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, for two years beginning in 1941. Stone joined Atlantic Records as a producer, songwriter, and arranger in 1947. There he wrote "Losing Hand" (1953) for Ray Charles and "Money Honey" (1953) for The Drifters. Using the pseudonym Charles Calhoun, he also wrote "Shake Rattle and Roll" in 1954. Stone received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1992 and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. Stone died April 1, 1999. 

November 16, 1904 Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of the Republic of Nigeria, was born in Zungeru, Nigeria. Azikiwe earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Lincoln University in 1930 and his Master of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933. He returned to Africa in 1934 and became the editor of the African Morning Press, a daily newspaper in Ghana where he promoted a pro-African nationalist agenda. He returned to Nigeria in 1937 and founded several newspapers across the country. Azikiwe co-founded the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons in 1944 and was elected to the Legislative Council of Nigeria in 1947. He became the first Nigerian named to the Queen's Privy Council in 1960 and became the first President of Nigeria in 1963. Azikiwe was removed from office in a military coup in 1966. He served as chancellor of Lagos University from 1972 to 1976. Azikiwe died May 11, 1996. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja and Nnamdi Azikiwe University are named in his honor and his portrait adorns Nigeria's five hundred naira currency note. His autobiography, "My Odyssey: An Autobiography," was published in 1971. 

November 16, 1927 Theodore "Tiger" Flowers, hall of fame boxer and the first African American middleweight boxing champion, died. Flowers was born August 5, 1895 in Camilla, Georgia. He began boxing professionally in 1918 and won the World Middleweight Boxing Championship in 1926. Later that year, he lost the title in a controversial decision. Flowers was hospitalized for an operation to remove scar tissue from around his eyes and died. His career record was 136 wins, 15 losses, 8 draws, and 2 no contests. His funeral in Atlanta, Georgia drew tens of thousands of mourners. Flowers was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993. "The Pussycat of Prizefighting: Tiger Flowers and the Politics of Black Celebrity" was published in 2007. 

November 16, 1930 Albert Chinualumogy Achebe, novelist, poet and professor, was born in the Igbo village of Nneobi, Nigeria. Achebe entered the University of Ibadan in 1948 and began to write articles and short stories and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953. His first novel, "Things Fall Down," was published in 1968 and it has become one of the most important books in African literature, selling over 8 million copies in 50 languages. Other novels by Achebe include "No Longer at Ease" (1960), "A Man of the People" (1966), "Anthills of the Savannah" (1987), and "Home and Exile" (2000). He was awarded the Man Booker International Prize, which recognizes a writer's overall achievements in literature and their significant influence on writers and readers worldwide, in 2007. He was awarded the 2010 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, one of the richest prizes for the arts. Achebe has been called "the father of modern African writing" and received over 30 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world, including Dartmouth College, Harvard University, and Brown University. Achebe published his memoir, "There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra," in 2012. Achebe was the David and Marianne Fisher University Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University when he died March 21, 2013. 

November 16, 1931 Hubert Charles Sumlin, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, was born in Greenwood, Mississippi but raised in Hughes, Arkansas. Sumlin got his first guitar at eight. He moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1954 and joined Howlin' Wolf's band. He remained with the band until Wolf's death in 1976. He played on the album "Howlin' Wolf" which was named the third greatest guitar album by Mojo magazine in 2004. Sumlin also recorded a number of albums under his own name, including "Hubert Sumlin's Blues Party" (1987), "Pinetop Perkins & Hubert Sumlin: Legends" (1999), and "About Them Shoes" (2004). He was nominated for four Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008. Sumlin died December 4, 2011. He was listed number 43 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time. 

November 16, 1938 Richard Gilbert "Dick" Griffey, record producer and promoter, was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Griffey performed as a drummer in local clubs as a teenager. After briefly attending Tennessee State University, Griffey enlisted in the United States Navy where he served as a medic. He moved to Los Angeles, California in the 1960s and served as a talent coordinator for the television show "Soul Train." Griffey founded SOLAR Records (Sound of Los Angeles Records) in 1977. There he produced a long list of acts, including Shalamar, The Whispers, Lakeside, and Midnight Star. Griffey died September 24, 2010. 

November 16, 1946 John Earl Warren, Jr., Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Brooklyn, New York. By January 14, 1969, Warren was serving as a first lieutenant in Company C, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 25th Infantry Division of the United States Army in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam during the Vietnam War. His actions on that day earned him the medal, America's highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, "While moving through a rubber plantation to reinforce another friendly unit, Company C came under intense fire from a well fortified enemy force. Disregarding his safety, 1st Lt. Warren with several of his men began maneuvering through the hail of enemy fire toward the hostile position. When he had come to within 6 feet of one of the enemy bunkers and was preparing to toss a hand grenade into it, an enemy grenade was suddenly thrown into the middle of his small group. Thinking only of his own men, 1st Lt. Warren fell in the direction of the grenade, thus shielding those around him from the blast. His actions, performed at the cost of his life, saved 3 men from serious or mortal injury." His medal was posthumously awarded to his family by President Richard M. Nixon August 6, 1970. 

November 16, 1946 John Henry "Jo Jo" White, hall of fame basketball player, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. White played college basketball at the University of Kansas where he was a second team All-American in 1968 and 1969. He earned his bachelor's degree in physical education in 1969. White starred as a member of the Gold medal winning men's basketball team at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. White was selected by the Boston Celtics in the 1969 National Basketball Association Draft. He was also drafted by the Dallas Cowboy football team and the Cincinnati Reds baseball team. Over his 13 season professional basketball career, White was a seven-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion. He retired in 1981 and is currently director of special projects and community relations for the Celtics. His jersey number 10 was retired by the Celtics in 1982. White started the Jo Jo White Foundation to provide support for brain cancer research in 2012. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. His biography, "Make It Count: The Life and Times of Basketball Great Jo Jo White," was published in 2012. 

November 16, 1963 Zina Lynna Garrison, former professional tennis player, was born in Houston, Texas. Garrison started playing tennis at 10 and entered her first tournament at 12. She won the Wimbledon and U. S. Open Junior titles in 1981 and was ranked the world number one junior player. Garrison turned professional in 1982 and over her 14 years on the professional tour won 14 top level singles titles and 20 doubles titles. At the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games, she won a Gold medal in the women's doubles and a Bronze medal in the women's singles. Garrison retired as a player in 1996 and was the captain for the United States Federation Cup team until 2008. She also led the U. S. women's tennis team at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. She founded the Zina Garrison Foundation for the Homeless in 1988 and the Zina Garrison All-Court Tennis Program, which supports inner-city tennis in Houston, in 1992. She has also served as a member of the U. S. President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Garrison received the United States Tennis Association Service Bowl Award, given annually to the player who makes the most notable contribution of sportsmanship, fellowship and service to tennis, in 1998. 

November 16, 1995 Charles Edward Gordone, the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, died. Gordone was born Charles Fleming October 12, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio but raised in Elkhart, Indiana. After serving in the United States Air Force, he earned a bachelor's degree in drama from California State University in 1952. After graduating, he moved to New York City where he won an Off-Broadway Theater (OBIE) Award for his performance in the 1953 all-Black production of "Of Mice and Men." Gordone continued acting, started directing, and co-founded the Committee for the Employment of Negro Performers and the Vantage Theater during the 1950s and 1960s. He performed in "The Blacks" from 1961 to 1966. Gordone wrote and produced "No Place to be Somebody" in 1967 and received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama May 4, 1970. The play was the first off-Broadway play to receive the award. Other plays by Gordone include "A Little More Light Around the Place" (1964), "Under the Boardwalk" (1976), "The Last Chord" (1977), and "Anabiosis" (1983). Gordone accepted a position as distinguished lecturer at Texas A&M University in 1987 and taught English and theater until his death. The Texas A&M Creative Writing Program established The Charles Gordone Awards to annually offer cash prizes in poetry and prose to undergraduate and graduate students. 

November 16, 1996 Benjamin Arthur Quarles, historian, educator and author, died. Quarles was born January 23, 1904 in Boston, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Shaw University in 1931 and his Master of Arts degree in 1933 and Ph. D. in 1940 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Quarles taught history at Shaw from 1935 to 1939, Dillard University from 1939 to 1953, and Morgan State University from 1953 to 1974. He also chaired the history department at Morgan State. Quarles published ten books, including "Frederick Douglass" (1948), "The Negro in the American Revolution" (1961), "The Negro in the Making of America" (1964), and "Black Abolitionists" (1969). The Benjamin A. Quarles African-American Studies Room at Morgan State was dedicated in 1988. 

November 16, 2000 Hosea Lorenzo Williams, civil rights activist, politician and minister, died. Williams was born January 5, 1926 in Attapulgus, Georgia. After serving in an all-Black unit of the United States Army during World War II, where he earned a Purple Heart, Williams earned a high school diploma at 23. He then earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morris Brown College and his Master of Science degree from Atlanta University in chemistry. Williams worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1963 to 1971 and was arrested 125 times for leading civil and voting rights protests. He was also severely beaten and hospitalized for using a "Whites only" drinking fountain and suffered a fractured skull and concussion during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery. Williams was the founding president of Hosea Feed the Hungry, which today annually serves 50,000 families and individuals in Georgia, in 1971. Williams served in the Georgia General Assembly from 1974 to 1985 and on the Atlanta City Council from 1985 to 1990. Boulevard Drive in Atlanta was renamed Hosea L. Williams Drive in his honor.

First African American to received a Pulitzer Prize.

Professional tennis player.

Professor, poet, and novelist.

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