Today in Black History, 11/23/2015 | Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/23/2015 | Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley

November 23, 1921 Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, was born Mamie Elizabeth Carthan in Webb, Mississippi but raised in Argo, Illinois. Till-Mobley was the first African American to make the honor roll at her predominantly White high school. Her only child, Emmett, was born July 25, 1941 and they moved to Chicago, Illinois in the early 1950s. On August 21, 1955, Till-Mobley sent her son to Money, Mississippi to stay at the home of his uncle for the remainder of the summer. On August 24, Emmett joined several other African American teenagers at Bryant's Grocery and Meat Marker for candy and sodas. Emmett allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant who was White and working at the store. When Bryant's husband, Ray, returned from a trip August 28 and was told of the alleged incident, he and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett from his uncle's house. Emmett's body was found swollen and disfigured in the Tallahatchie River three days later. At her son's funeral in Chicago, Till-Mobley insisted that the casket be open because "I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby." Tens of thousands of people viewed Emmett's body and photographs were circulated around the world. After the funeral, Till-Mobley toured the country relating the events of her son's death and trial of his murderers and raising money for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Till-Mobley earned her bachelor's degree from Chicago Teacher's College in 1956, her master's degree in administration from Loyola University Chicago in 1976 and became a teacher and continued to educate people about her son. Till-Mobley died January 6, 2003. Her autobiography, "Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America," was published later that year. 

November 23, 1860 Edward Austin Johnson, educator, lawyer, politician and author, was born enslaved in Raleigh, North Carolina. Johnson was emancipated at the end of the Civil War and earned his bachelor's degree from Atlanta University in 1883. After graduating, he served as a principal in the Atlanta school system and then in the Raleigh school system. He earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from Shaw University in 1891 and joined their faculty, rising to dean of the law department by 1907. Johnson served as an elected alderman in Raleigh from 1897 to 1899 and was appointed clerk of the federal district attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1892, 1896, and 1900 and one of the founders of the National Negro Business League in 1900. Johnson moved to Harlem, New York in 1907 and was the first African American elected to the New York state legislature in 1917. He served one term. Johnson authored several books, including "A School History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1890" (1890) and "History of the Negro Soldier in the Spanish American War and Other Items of Interest" (1899). Johnson died July 24, 1944. A North Carolina Historical Marker honoring Johnson was unveiled in Raleigh in 1982. 

November 23, 1897 Andrew Jackson Beard received patent number 594,059 for his improved rail coupler design. Before automatic car couplers, railroad workers had to manually hook railroad cars together by dropping a pin between the two connectors of the engaging cars. Often the workers could not move away from the cars fast enough and many, including Beard, lost limbs after becoming wedged between the cars. Beard sold the rights to this patent for $50,000. Beard was born March 29, 1849 in Woodland, Alabama and spent his first fifteen years enslaved. After emancipation, Beard worked as a farmer, carpenter, blacksmith, railroad worker, and businessman. He patented his first invention, a plow, in 1881 and sold the rights for $4,000. He patented a second plow December 15, 1887 and sold the rights for $5,200. He then invested the money from his inventions into a profitable real estate business. He received patent number 478,271 July 5, 1892 for an improved rotary steam engine. It was cheaper and easier to build and operate than conventional steam engines. Not much is known of Beard's life after 1897 except that he died in 1921. Beard was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006. 

November 23, 1897 John Lee Love of Fall River, Massachusetts received patent number 594,114 for a pencil sharpener that used a crank to shave off thin slices of wood from the pencil until a point was formed. The shavings from the wood would stay inside the sharpener much like the sharpeners we use today. Love had previously received patent number 542,419 for an improved plasterer's hawk July 9, 1895. A plasterer's hawk is a flat square piece of board made of wood or metal upon which plaster or mortar is placed and then spread by plasterers or masons. Love designed one that was more portable with a detachable handle and foldable board made of aluminum. Not much else is known of Love's life other than he died December 26, 1931. 

November 23, 1914 Emmett Littleton Ashford, the first African American umpire in Major League Baseball, was born in Los Angeles, California. Ashford earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Chapman College in 1941 and served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. He became the first Black professional umpire in 1951 when he started in the Southwestern International League. He went on to umpire in the Pacific Coast League before being hired by the American League in 1961. Ashford became the first African American to umpire a major league baseball game April 11, 1966. He umpired in the major leagues until mandatory retirement in 1970. Ashford died March 1, 1980. His biography, "Strrr-ike!!: Emmett Ashford, Major League Umpire," was published in 2004. 

November 23, 1929 Gloria Lynn, jazz and R&B vocalist, was born Gloria Wilson in Harlem, New York. Lynn sang in the church choir as a young girl and won the first prize at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater at 15. Lynn recorded as Gloria Alleyne with the Enchanters and Dell-Tones during the 1950s. She had several hit singles during the 1960s, including "June Night," "I'm Glad There Is You," and "I Wish You Love." Lynn recorded a number of albums, including "Love And A Woman" (1966), "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (1976), "No Detour Ahead" (1993), and "From My Heart to Yours" (2007). She received many honors, including the International Women of Jazz Award in 1996 and the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1997. Lynn died October 15, 2013. 

November 23, 1941 Henrietta Vinton Davis, orator, dramatist and organizer, died. Davis was born August 15, 1860 in Baltimore, Maryland but raised in Washington, D. C. She passed the necessary examinations at 15 and became a teacher in the Maryland Public School System. Davis became the first African American woman employed by the Office of the Recorder of Deeds in D. C. in 1878. She began her elocution and dramatic arts education in 1881 and was touring the Northeast and Midwest as a popular speaker by 1883. Davis gave up her career as a dramatist in 1919 to become the first international organizer for Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association. At the 1920 UNIA convention, Davis was one of the signatories on the Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World. She established UNIA divisions in Cuba, Guadeloupe, St. Thomas, Port-au-Prince, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. Garvey declared her "the greatest woman of the African race today." After hearing her speak in 1921, a reporter for the California Eagle wrote "she is by sentiment and deed a genuine African patriot, full-fledged, sincere, uncompromising, ready to do, dare and die for her convictions." The Mayor of Washington, D. C. proclaimed August 25 "Henrietta Vinton Davis Day" in 2008. 

November 23, 1949 Thomas Joyner, hall of fame radio broadcaster and author, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. Joyner earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Tuskegee Institute in 1970 and began his broadcasting career immediately after graduation. He accepted positions to host a morning show in Dallas, Texas and an afternoon show in Chicago, Illinois in the mid-1980s, resulting in him commuting daily between the two cities and earning the nicknames "The Fly Jock" and "The Hardest Working Man in Radio." Joyner was signed to host "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" in 1994. Joyner founded the Tom Joyner Foundation in 1998 to provide financial assistance to students at historically Black colleges and universities. The foundation has raised more than $60 million since inception. Joyner was named the 2004 Network/Syndicated Personality of the Year by the National Association of Broadcasters. Joyner co-wrote "I'm Just a DJ but…..It Makes Sense to Me" in 2005 and he wrote "Tom Joyner Presents How to Prepare for College" in 2009. Joyner was the first African American to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame and Museum in 1999 and was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in 2008. 

November 23, 1960 Robin Rene Roberts, co-host of "Good Morning America" and author, was born in Andalusia, Alabama but grew up in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Roberts attended Southeastern Louisiana University where she was a standout performer on the women's basketball team and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in communications in 1983. Roberts began her career right after graduation, working as a sports anchor and reporter for various television stations until 1990. She joined ESPN in 1990 as a sportscaster and won three Emmy Awards for her work there. She joined ABC News in 1995 and was promoted to co-anchor of "Good Morning America" in 2005, a position she continues to hold. Roberts published "From the Heart: Seven Rules to Live By" in 2007, "From the Heart: Eight Rules to Live By" in 2008, and "Everybody's Got Something" in 2014. She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2012 and was awarded the 2013 Arthur Ashe Courage Award by ESPN. 

November 23, 1995 Junior Walker, saxophonist and bandleader, died. Walker was born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr. June 14, 1931 in Blytheville, Arkansas but raised in South Bend, Indiana. He started a band called The Jumping Jacks in the mid-1950s. The band signed with Motown Records in 1961 and their name was changed to Jr. Walker & The All Stars. Their first hit, "Shotgun," was written by Walker and was number one on the R&B charts in 1965. This was followed by such hits as "Shake and Fingerpop" (1965), "(I'm A) Road Runner" (1966), and "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" (1969). Walker went solo in 1979 but was not as successful as he had been with the All Stars. He received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1995 and "Shotgun" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." 

November 23, 2006 Gerald Michael Boyd, the first African American metropolitan editor and managing editor at the New York Times, died. Boyd was born October 3, 1950 in St. Louis, Missouri. He won a scholarship to the University of Missouri-Columbia and after graduating in 1973 joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where he worked as a reporter and White House correspondent until 1983. Boyd joined the New York Times in 1983 as a national political reporter. He rose through the ranks to managing editor in 2001, the first African American in the newspaper's history to hold such a senior position. As managing editor, he oversaw 1,200 reporters and editors. Under his leadership, the newspaper won three Pulitzer Prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for the 2000 series "How Race is Lived in America" which he supervised. Boyd resigned from the newspaper in 2003 and worked as a consultant until his death. His biography, "My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times," was published in 2010. 

November 23, 2012 Lawrence Guyot, civil rights activist, died. Guyot was born July 17, 1939 in Pass Christian, Mississippi. He attended Tougaloo College and while there became active in civil rights and was one of the original members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry in 1963. Guyot was elected chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. He was repeatedly jailed and beaten while organizing Black people in Mississippi to vote. He earned his law degree from Rutgers School of Law in 1971 and moved to Washington, D. C. There, he worked as a program monitor for the D. C. Department of Human Services' Office of Early Childhood Development until his retirement in 2004.

John Lee Love

Invented the pencil sharpener.

Henrietta Vinton Davis

Dramatist , orator, and United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) organizer. 

Tom Joyner

Hall of fame broadcaster, author, and philanthropist. 

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