Today in Black History, 11/20/2015 | Garrett Augustus Morgan - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/20/2015 | Garrett Augustus Morgan

November 20, 1923 Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. of Cleveland, Ohio received patent number 1,475,024 for his version of the traffic signal. His invention enabled a traffic director to control the flow of traffic by stopping the movement of traffic in all directions prior to allowing traffic to move in any one direction. Morgan was born March 4, 1877 in Paris, Kentucky. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1895 and worked repairing sewing machines for a clothing manufacturer. He opened his own sewing machine and shoe repair shop in 1907 and helped to found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men in 1908. Morgan received patent number 1,113,675 for the safety hood and smoke protector October 13, 1914 and became nationally known when he used it July 25, 1916 to save several men in a tunnel explosion under Lake Erie. Morgan was awarded the Medal of Bravery by the citizens of Cleveland but was denied the Carnegie Medal, which is awarded to civilians who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others, due to his race. Morgan died August 27, 1963. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005. The Garrett Morgan Treatment Plant and the Garrett A. Morgan Cleveland School of Science are named in his honor. "Garrett A. Morgan: American Negro Inventor" was published in 1969. His name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. 

November 20, 1695 Zumbi, also known as Zumbi dos Palmares, leader of the Quilombo dos Palmares in Brazil was captured and beheaded by the Portuguese. Zumbi was born free in Palmares in 1655 but was captured by the Portuguese when he was six years old. Despite efforts to pacify him, Zumbi escaped when he was 15 and returned to his birthplace. He became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties. Zumbi became the leader of Palmares in 1678 and for the next seventeen years led the fight for the independence of Palmares, a self-sustaining republic of Maroons who had escaped from the Portuguese settlements in Brazil. Zambi is honored as a hero, freedom fighter, and symbol of freedom in Brazil today. A bust of Zumbi sits in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, with a plaque that reads "Zumbi dos Palmares, the leader of all races." Also, November 20 is celebrated as a day of Black consciousness in Brazil. Zambi dos Palmares International Airport in Macelo, Brazil is named in his honor. 

November 20, 1878 Charles Sidney Gilpin, one of the most highly regarded actors of the 1920s, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Gilpin first performed on stage as a singer at 12. He performed with a number of traveling musical troupes beginning in 1905. He appeared in whiteface in "The Octoroon" in 1916 and had a role in "Abraham Lincoln" in 1919. Gilpin made his Broadway debut in the lead role of "The Emperor Jones" in 1920 to great acclaim. The Drama League of New York named him one of the ten people in 1920 who had done the most for American theater, the first Black person to be so honored. He was awarded the 1921 Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was honored at the White House by President Warren G. Harding. The Dumas Dramatic Club of Cleveland, Ohio renamed itself the Gilpin Players in 1922. Gilpin died May 6, 1930. 

November 20, 1895 Sallie Martin, the "Mother of Gospel Music" and entrepreneur, was born in Pittfield, Georgia. Martin moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1927 and met Thomas A. Dorsey and convinced him to hire her as part of a trio formed to introduce his songs to churches. Martin helped to form the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, Inc. in 1933 and served as vice president until her death June 18, 1988. She co-founded Martin and Morris Music, Inc. in 1940 and it became the largest African American owned gospel publishing company in the country. They were responsible for publishing a number of gospel standards, including "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" (1940). Martin retired from music in 1970 and sold her portion of the publishing company in 1973. Her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement led to an invitation to attend the 1960 celebration marking the independence of Nigeria. This inspired her to donate to the Nigerian health program, resulting in a state office building named in her honor. She was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1991. 

November 20, 1910 Anne Pauline "Pauli" Murray, lawyer, teacher, writer, priest and civil and women's rights activist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland but raised in Durham, North Carolina. Murray earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Hunter College in 1933. She was one of the founders of the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. After being denied admission to the University of North Carolina Law School because of her race, she graduated as valedictorian from the Howard University Law School in 1944. After being denied admission to Harvard University Law School because of her gender, Murray earned her Master of Law degree from the University of California in 1947. Murray published her first poem, "The Song of the Highway," in 1934. She published "States' Laws on Race and Color," which catalogued state statues discriminating against African Americans, Native Americans, and other groups, in 1950. Other works by Murray include "Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family" (1956) and "Dark Testament and other poems" (1970). Murray was appointed to the President's Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. She was the first African American to earn a Doctor of Judicial Science degree from Yale Law School in 1965. She was a professor of American studies at Brandeis University from 1968 to 1973 and also taught law in Ghana. Murray earned her Master of Divinity degree in 1976 and was the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest in 1977. She served in that capacity until her retirement in 1984. Murray died July 1, 1985. Her autobiography, "Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage," was published in 1987. The Pauli Murray Human Relations Award was established by Orange County, North Carolina in 1990. 

November 20, 1948 Barbara Hendricks, operatic singer and goodwill ambassador, was born in Stephens, Arkansas. Hendricks earned her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and chemistry from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1969 and her bachelor's degree in music from the Juilliard School of Music in 1973. She made her operatic debut in Europe and the United States in 1974. Hendricks has appeared at major opera houses around the world and has performed more than 20 roles. She has also dedicated her life to the plight of refugees. She was named a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Goodwill Ambassador in 1987 and founded the Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation in 1998 to facilitate reconciliation of conflicts. She has been a member of the Council of the Foundation for the Refugee Education Trust since 2000. Hendricks was made a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1986, awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Legion d'honneur in 1992, and received the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts in 2000. She published her autobiography, "Lifting My Voice," in 2014. 

November 20, 1957 Dwight Eugene Stephenson, hall of fame football player, was born in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. Stephenson played college football at the University of Alabama where he was an All-American. Coach Bear Bryant called Stephenson the best player he had ever coached, regardless of position. Stephenson was selected by the Miami Dolphins in the 1980 National Football League Draft and over his eight-season professional career was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. Stephenson received the 1985 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which annually honors a player's volunteer and charitable work and his excellence on the field, and was named the 2005 Walter Camp Man of the Year which is annually given to an individual who has been closely associated with the game of football. The recipient must have attained a measure of success, must have contributed to the public service, and must have a reputation for integrity. The Dwight Stephenson Foundation was founded in 2007 to generate increased funding for charities that provide educational, health and human services to support the needs of children and families. Stephenson is the chief executive officer of D. Stephenson Construction, Inc. 

November 20, 1976 Dominique Margaux Dawes, hall of fame gymnast and the first African American female to win an Olympic Gold medal in gymnastics, was born in Silver Springs, Maryland. Dawes was introduced to gymnastics at six and competed in her first international competition at twelve. As members of the Bronze medal winning United States Olympic gymnastics team at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games, she and Betty Okino were the first African American females to win an Olympic gymnastics medal. Dawes was named 1994 Sportsperson of the Year by USA Gymnastics and received the 1995 Henry P. Iba Citizen Award, which is presented annually to two outstanding athletes who have demonstrated good citizenship. At the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, the U. S. team won the Gold medal and Dawes was the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. At the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games, Dawes contributed to the U. S. team winning the Bronze medal which gave her more Olympic team medals than any other U. S. gymnast. After retiring from the sport, Dawes earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland in 2002 and began pursuing a career in acting, modeling and television production. She served as president of the Women's Sports Foundation from 2004 to 2006, the youngest president in the foundation's history, and is currently on the Advisory Board of Sesame Workshop's "Healthy Habits for Life" program. She also works as a motivational speaker, concentrating on youth issues. Dawes was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1998, the USA Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008, and the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2009. President Barack H. Obama appointed her co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition in 2010. 

November 20, 1990 William Montague Cobb, physical anthropologist, educator and the first African American to earn a Ph. D. in anthropology, died. Cobb was born October 12, 1904 in Washington, D. C. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College in 1925, his Doctor of Medicine degree from Howard University Medical School in 1929, and his Ph. D. in anatomy and physical anthropology from Case Western Reserve University in 1932. That year, Cobb returned to Howard and over the next 41 years taught more than 6,000 medical students. He served as chair of the anatomy department from 1942 to 1969 and built one of the world's foremost collections of human skeletons for the study of comparative anatomy. Many of his studies and publications attacked the racial and social bias in prior anatomy and anthropology studies. One of his most famous articles, "Race and Runners," published in 1936 dispelled the idea that an African American gene allowed Jesse Owens to win four Olympic Gold medals but decreased his intelligence. Cobb was also involved in the Civil Rights Movement, serving as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1976 to 1982. He also was active with the National Urban League, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and served as editor of the journal of the National Medical Association from 1949 to 1977. 

November 20, 1998 Meredith Charles Gourdine, athlete and hall of fame engineer and physicist, died. Gourdine was born September 26, 1929 in Newark, New Jersey but raised in Brooklyn, New York. He won the Silver medal in the long jump at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympic Games. Gourdine earned his Bachelor of Science degree in engineering physics from Cornell University in 1953 and his Ph. D. in engineering physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1960. After working in the private sector from 1957 to 1964, he founded a research laboratory, Gourdine Laboratories. In 1973, he founded Energy Innovations to produce direct energy conversion devices. Gourdine pioneered research in electrogasdynamics and was responsible for the engineering technique termed incineraid for removing smoke from buildings. His work on gas dispersion developed techniques for dispersing fog from airport runways. Gourdine is credited with 27 patents. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1991 and inducted into the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame in 1994. 

November 20, 2003 David Dacko, the first President of the Central African Republic, died. Dacko was born March 24, 1930 in the village of Bouchia in what was then French Equatorial Africa. Educated for a career in teaching, he became schoolmaster of a large primary school in 1951 and principal of Kouanga College in 1955. Dacko served in various capacities within the government from 1957 to 1959 and after the Central African Republic gained independence August 13, 1960 became the first president of the CAR. His government was overthrown in 1965 and he was briefly imprisoned. The French government overthrew the CAR government in 1979 and restored Dacko to the presidency which he held until 1981 when he was overthrown again. Dacko ran for president again in 1999 and finished third. 

November 20, 2013 Ernest Banks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Barack H. Obama. Banks was born January 31, 1931 in Dallas, Texas. He made his professional baseball debut in 1950 with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League and broke into the major leagues in 1953 with the Chicago Cubs, their first Black player. Over his 18 season major league career, Banks was an eleven-time All-Star, National League Most Valuable Player in 1958 and 1959, and a Gold Glove winner. After retiring, the Cubs hired him as a coach for the team. Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and the Cubs retired his uniform number 14 in 1982. A statue of Banks was unveiled outside of the Cub's stadium March 31, 2008. The Ernie Banks Live Above & Beyond Foundation "works to promote social welfare, and improve and develop the capabilities of children and seniors who are underprivileged residing in disadvantaged neighborhoods." Banks died January 23, 2015. 

November 20, 2013 Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack H. Obama. Rustin was born March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He assisted in the founding of the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. A declared pacifist, he was imprisoned from 1944 to 1946 for violating the Selective Service Act. While in prison, he organized protests against the segregated dining facilities. After his release from prison, Rustin was frequently arrested for protesting against British colonial rule in India and Africa. He organized the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947, the first of the Freedom Rides, to test the Supreme Court ruling that banned racial segregation in interstate travel. He organized the Committee to Support South African Resistance in 1951 which later became the American Committee on Africa. He assisted Martin Luther King, Jr. in organizing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 and was one of the chief organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin worked as a human rights and election monitor for Freedom House, a research and advocacy group for democracy, political freedom, and human rights, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Rustin died August 24, 1987. Several schools and other institutions are named in his honor, including Bayard Rustin High School in West Chester and the Bayard Rustin Social Justice Center in Conway, Arkansas. A number of biographies have been published of Rustin, including "Bayard Rustin: Troubles I've Seen" (1997), "Bayard Rustin: Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movement" (1997), and "Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin" (2004). 

November 20, 2013 Oprah Gail Winfrey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack H. Obama. Winfrey was born January 29, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. She won an oratorical contest at 17 which secured her a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976. She moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1983 to host "AM Chicago" and within months it was the highest rated television talk show in the city. The show was expanded to an hour in 1986, renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and broadcast nationally. After 25 years, the final show was aired in September, 2011. Winfrey founded Harpo Productions in 1986 which produced the 1998 film "Beloved" and the 2005 made for television movie "Their Eyes Were Watching God." She co-starred in "The Color Purple" in 1985 and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She also appeared in the television movies "The Women of Brewster Place" (1990) and "Before Women Had Wings" (1997) and the films "The Butler" (2013) and "Selma" (2014). Winfrey co-founded the Oxygen Network in 1998, began publication of "O, The Oprah Magazine in 2000, and she and Discovery Communications changed Discovery Health Channel into OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in 2008. According to Forbes magazine Winfrey had a net worth of $3 billion in 2015. Winfrey started Oprah's Angel Network, a charity to encourage people around the world to make a difference in the life of the underprivileged, in 1998 and it has raised more than $51 million. She has invested $40 million to establish the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa which opened in 2007. She became the first Black person to be listed by Business Week magazine as one of America's top 50 most generous philanthropists in 2005. She donated $12 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2013. She received the 1995 George Foster Peabody Award, given annually for distinguished and meritorious public service in radio and television, was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Science Hall of Fame in 1993, received the 2000 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal, and received Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. She was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World each year from 2004 to 2011 and on their list of the 100 Most Influential People of the Century. Forbes magazine listed her number 12 on its 2015 list and number 12 on their 2015 list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World. Several books have been written about Winfrey, including "Oprah Winfrey: The Real Story" (2001) and "Oprah Winfrey" (2007). 

November 20, 2013 Cordy Tindell "C. T." Vivian was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack H. Obama. Vivian was born July 28, 1924 in Howard, Missouri. His first professional job was recreation director for the Carver Community Center in Peoria, Illinois where he participated in his first sit-in demonstrations, successfully integrating Barton's Cafeteria in 1947. Vivian studied at American Baptist College from 1955 to 1959 and participated in the Nashville Student Movement. He also helped found the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference and helped organize the first sit-ins in 1960 and the first civil rights marches in 1961. Vivian founded and directed Vision, an educational program that provided scholarships for 702 Alabama college-bound students, in 1966. He authored "Black Power and the American Myth" in 1970. Vivian moved to Atlanta, Georgia later in the 1970s and founded the Black Action Strategies and Information Center, a consultancy on multiculturalism and race relations in the workplace and other contexts, in 1977. He co-founded the Center for Democratic Renewal in 1979 to respond to White supremacy activity. His biography, "Challenge and Change," was published in 1993. He founded the C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute in 2008 to create a model leadership culture in Atlanta. Vivian continues to speak publicly and offer workshops.

William Montague Cobb

The first African American to receive a Ph.D in anthropology, educator, and physical anthropologist. 

Dominique M. Dawes

Hall of fame gymnast and the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics.

Meredith C. Gourdine

Athlete, hall of fame engineer, and physicist.

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