Today in Black History, 11/25/2015 | Bill "Bojangles" Robinson - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 11/25/2015 | Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

November 25, 1949 Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, hall of fame tap dancer and stage and film actor, died. Robinson was born May 25, 1878 in Richmond, Virginia. He began to dance for a living at six. Robinson served in the United States Army from 1898 to 1900. He gained success and fame on the Black theater circuit and did not dance for White audiences until he was 50 years old when he was featured in "Blackbirds of 1928," a Black revue for White audiences. Robinson appeared in 14 motion pictures after 1930, most frequently as a butler opposite Shirley Temple in such films as "The Little Colonel" (1935) and "Rebecca of Sonnybrook Farm" (1938). He also performed on the stage in "The Hot Mikado" (1939) and "All in Fun" (1940). Despite earning more than $2 million during his lifetime, Robinson died penniless. A statue of Robinson was unveiled in Richmond June 30, 1973. Robinson was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 1987. A congressional resolution in 1989 declared National Tap Dance Day to be May 25. His biography, "Mr. Bojangles: the biography of Bill Robinson," was published in 1988. 

November 25, 1868 John Van Surly DeGrasse, the first Black doctor admitted to a United States medical society, died. DeGrasse was born in June, 1825 in New York City. He received his medical degree, with honors, from Bowdoin College Medical School in 1849, the second African American to receive a medical degree in the U. S. After graduating, DeGrasse went to Paris, France and studied with one of the most noted surgeons of the time. He became fluent in French and German and returned to the U. S. in 1851. He established his medical practice in Boston, Massachusetts in 1854 and was admitted to the state medical society August 24, 1854. DeGrasse was an active abolitionist and helped organize vigilante groups to counter slave hunters in Boston. He joined the Union Army in 1863 and was commissioned an assistant surgeon with the 35th U. S. Colored Infantry. After the Civil War, DeGrasse returned to his practice in Boston where he died. 

November 25, 1874 Joe Gans, the first American born African American to win a world boxing championship, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Gans started boxing in "battle royals" in 1891. These were matches where several young Black men were blindfolded and put in a ring to fight until there was one winner. Gans won the World Lightweight Boxing Championship in 1902 and held the title until 1908. He retired in 1909 with a career record of 145 wins, 10 losses, and 16 draws. Gans died August 10, 1910. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Biographies include "Joe Gans: A Biography of the First African American World Boxing Champion" (2008) and "The Longest Fight: In the Ring with Joe Gans, Boxing's First African American Champion" (2012). 

November 25, 1903 William DeHart Hubbard, hall of fame track and field athlete and the first African American to win an Olympic Gold medal in an individual event, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hubbard won the Gold medal in the running long jump at the 1924 Paris Summer Olympic Games. He earned his bachelor's degree, with honors, from the University of Michigan in 1927 and was a three-time National Collegiate Athletic Association champion and seven-time Big Ten champion. He also set the world long jump record in 1925 and tied the 100 yard dash record in 1926. Hubbard later served as supervisor of the Department of Colored Work for Cincinnati's Public Recreation Commission and as race relations adviser for the Federal Housing Authority. Hubbard died June 23, 1976. He was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1957 and posthumously into the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 1979. 

November 25, 1912 John Herman Henry Sengstacke, newspaper publisher, was born in Savannah, Georgia. As a youngster, Sengstacke worked for the Woodville Times, a newspaper owned by his grandfather. After graduating from Hampton Institute in 1934, Sengstacke became vice president and general manager of The Robert S. Abbott Publishing Company which published the Chicago Defender. He took over the company in 1940. Amongst many other issues, Sengstacke worked to have African American reporters in the White House, to create jobs in the United States Postal Service for African Americans, and to desegregate the armed forces. He was appointed by President Harry S. Truman to the commission formed to integrate the military. Sengstacke founded the National Newspaper Publishers Association to unify and strengthen African American owned newspapers and served seven terms as president. Sengstacke died May 28, 1997. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian award in the United States, by President William J. Clinton in 2001. 

November 25, 1933 Leonard Edward "Lenny" Moore, hall of fame football player, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. Moore played college football at Pennsylvania State University and was selected by the Baltimore Colts in the 1956 National Football League Draft. That season he was named the NFL Rookie of the Year. Over his 12 season professional career, Moore was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection. He scored a touchdown in an NFL record 18 consecutive appearances between 1963 and 1965, a record that stood for 40 years until it was equaled in 2005. Moore retired after the 1967 season and the Colts retired his uniform number 24. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975. Moore began working for the State of Maryland Department of Juvenile Justice in 1984. A street in Randallstown, Maryland was named in his honor in 2013. 

November 25, 1940 Percy Sledge, hall of fame R&B and soul performer, was born in Leighton, Alabama. Sledge's first recording, "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1966), reached number one in the United States and went on to become an international hit and the cornerstone of his career. Sledge followed with "Take Time to Know Her" (1968), "Sunshine" (1973), and "I'll Be Your Everything" (1974). His last album, "The Gospel of Percy Sledge," was released in 2013. Sledge was an inaugural Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award honoree in 1989 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. "When a Man Loves a Woman" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." Sledge died April 14, 2015. 

November 25, 1945 George D. Webster, college hall of fame football player, was born in Anderson, South Carolina. Webster played defensive back for Michigan State University from 1964 to 1966 and was an All-American his last two years. Webster was selected by the Houston Oilers in the 1967 American Football League Draft and was the AFL Rookie of the Year that season. Over his ten season professional career, Webster was a three-time All-Star. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Football Hall of Fame in 1987. Webster died April 19, 2007. That same year, Michigan State established the George Webster Scholarship Fund for former athletes completing their education at the school. 

November 25, 1965 Christopher D. Carter, hall of fame football player, was born in Troy, Ohio but raised in Middletown, Ohio. Carter played collegiate football at Ohio State University where he was an All-American in 1986. He was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1987 National Football League Supplemental Draft and over his 16 season professional career was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection. Carter retired from football after the 2002 season and has worked as a football analyst for several television shows. He also serves as an assistant high school football coach. Carter was selected the 1994 Bart Starr Man of the Year, given to the NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field, and in the community, the 1998 Whizzer White Man of the Year, which honors the NFL player who best serves his team, community, and country, and the 1999 Walter Payton Man of the Year which honors a player's volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field. He also was selected to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1990s. Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. 

November 25, 1970 Albert Ayler, hall of fame jazz saxophonist, died. Ayler was born July 13, 1936 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. He was initially taught the saxophone by his father and later studied at the Academy of Music. He began playing with Little Walter at 16. Ayler joined the United States Army in 1958 where he played in the regiment band. After his discharge, he relocated to Sweden where he recorded his debut album, "My Name is Albert Ayler," in 1963. Ayler returned to the U. S. in 1963 and over the next six years recorded a number of albums, including "New York Eye And Ear Control" (1964), "Bells" (1965), "Love Cry" (1967), and "Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe" (1969). Despite the critical acclaim his recordings received, Ayler was never commercially successful. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1983 and a documentary of his life and music, "My Name is Albert Ayler," was produced in 2005. 

November 25, 1987 Harold Lee Washington, the first and only African American Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, died. Washington was born April 15, 1922 in Chicago. After service in the United States Army Air Force from 1942 to 1945, Washington earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Roosevelt College in 1949 and his Juris Doctor degree from Northwestern University School of Law in 1952. He worked for former Olympian Ralph Metcalfe as part of the Richard Daley political machine from 1951 to 1965. Washington served in the Illinois legislature from 1965 to 1980 and was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1981 to 1983. Washington became Mayor of Chicago April 19, 1983 and served until his death. After his death, a number of city facilities and institutions were named or renamed in his honor, including the Harold Washington Library Center, Harold Washington College, and Harold Washington Park. Washington's time in office is chronicled in "Harold Washington: The Mayor, The Man" (1989) and "Fire on the Prairie: Chicago's Harold Washington and the Politics of Race" (1992). 

November 25, 1998 Clerow "Flip" Wilson, Jr., comedian and actor, died. Wilson was born December 8, 1933 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He lied about his age at 16 and joined the United States Air Force where his personality and funny stories made him popular. Wilson served until 1954, reaching the rank of airman first class. After his discharge, he became a regular at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and appeared on a number of television variety shows. He won the 1970 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for "The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress." Also that year, "The Flip Wilson Show" debuted on television with Wilson playing characters such as Reverend Leroy, pastor of the Church of What's Happening Now, and Geraldine whose line "the devil made me do it" became a national expression. The show aired through 1974 and was nominated for eleven Emmy Awards, winning the 1971 award for Outstanding Variety Series-Musical and Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety or Music. Wilson also appeared in the films "Uptown Saturday Night" (1974) and "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" (1979). A biography, "Flip: The Inside Story of TV's First Black Superstar," was published in 2013. 

November 25, 2013 Foreststorn "Chico" Hamilton, jazz drummer and band leader, died. Hamilton was born September 20, 1921 in Los Angeles, California. He began playing drums early with jazz greats such as Charles Mingus, Illinois Jacquet, and Dexter Gordon. After six years playing with Lena Horne, he established his own band in 1955 and recorded his debut album, "Chico Hamilton Trio." Other albums by Hamilton include "Drumfusion" (1962), "Reunion" (1991), "Thoughts of…" (2002), and "Revelation" (2011). Hamilton formed a commercial and film production company in 1965 which scored music for a number of feature films, television shows, and hundreds of commercials for television and radio. 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 2004.

Harold Lee Washington

The first and only African American mayor of Chicago. 

William DeHart Hubbard

​Hall of fame track and field athlete and the first African American to win an Olympic Gold medal in an individual event.

Leonard Edward "Lenny" Wilson

Hall of fame football player.

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